Skip to content.

Drama

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

The Frogs

The Frogs turns upon the decline of tragic art.
400 BC
THE FROGS
by Aristophanes
Characters in the Play

XANTHIAS, servant of dionysus
DIONYSUS
HERACLES
A CORPSE
CHARON
AEACUS
A MAID SERVANT OF PERSEPHONE
HOSTESS, keeper of cook-shop
PLATHANE, her partner
EURIPIDES
AESCHYLUS
PLUTO
CHORUS OF FROGS
CHORUS OF BLESSED MYSTICS

The scene shows the house of HERACLES in the
background. There enter two travellers: DIONYSUS on foot, in his
customary yellow robe and buskins but also with the club and lion's
skin of Heracles, and his servant XANTHIAS on a donkey, carrying the
luggage on a pole over his shoulder.

XANTHIAS
Shall I crack any of those old jokes, master,
At which the audience never fail to laugh?
DIONYSUS
Aye, what you will, except "I'm getting crushed":
Fight shy of that: I'm sick of that already.
XANTHIAS
Nothing else smart?
DIONYSUS
Aye, save "my shoulder's aching."
XANTHIAS
Come now, that comical joke?
DIONYSUS
With all my heart.
Only be careful not to shift your pole,
And-
XANTHIAS
What?
DIONYSUS
And vow that you've a belly-ache.
XANTHIAS
May I not say I'm overburdened so
That if none ease me, I must ease myself?
DIONYSUS
For mercy's sake, not till I'm going to vomit.
XANTHIAS
What! must I bear these burdens, and not make
One of the jokes Ameipsias and Lycis
And Phrynichus, in every play they write,
Put in the mouths of their burden-bearers?
DIONYSUS
Don't make them; no! I tell you when I see
Their plays, and hear those jokes, I come away
More than a twelvemonth older than I went.
XANTHIAS
O thrice unlucky neck of mine, which now
Is getting crushed, yet must not crack its joke!
DIONYSUS
Now is not this fine pampered insolence
When I myself, Dionysus, son of-Pipkin,
Toil on afoot, and let this fellow ride,
Taking no trouble, and no burden bearing?
XANTHIAS
What, don't I bear?
DIONYSUS
How can you when you're riding?
XANTHIAS
Why, I bear these.
DIONYSUS
How?
XANTHIAS
Most unwillingly.
DIONYSUS
Does not the donkey bear the load you're bearing?
XANTHIAS
Not what I bear myself: by Zeus, not he.
DIONYSUS
How can you bear, when you are borne yourself?
XANTHIAS
Don't know: but anyhow my shoulder's aching.
DIONYSUS
Then since you say the donkey helps you not,
You lift him up and carry him in turn.
XANTHIAS
O hang it all! why didn't I fight at sea?
You should have smarted bitterly for this.
DIONYSUS
Get down, you rascal; I've been trudging on
Till now I've reached the portal, where I'm going
First to turn in. Boy! Boy! I say there, Boy!

Enter HERACLES from house.

HERACLES
Who banged the door? How like prancing Centaur
He drove against it Mercy o' me, what's this?
DIONYSUS
Boy.
XANTHIAS
Yes.
DIONYSUS
Did you observe?
XANTHIAS
What?
DIONYSUS
How alarmed he is.
XANTHIAS
Aye truly, lest you've lost your wits.
HERACLES
O by Demeter, I can't choose but laugh.
Biting my lips won't stop me. Ha! ha! ha!
DIONYSUS
Pray you, come hither, I have need of you.
HERACLES
I vow I can't help laughing, I can't help it.
A lion's hide upon a yellow silk,
A club and buskin! What's it all about?
Where were you going?
DIONYSUS
I was serving lately
Aboard the-Cleisthenes.
More than a dozen of the enemy's ships.
HERACLES
You two?
DIONYSUS
We two.
HERACLES
And then I awoke, and lo!
DIONYSUS
There as, on deck, I'm reading to myself
The Andromeda, a sudden pang of longing.
Shoots through my heart, you can't conceive how keenly.
HERACLES
How big a pang?
DIONYSUS
A small one, Molon's size.
HERACLES
Caused by a woman?
DIONYSUS
No.
HERACLES
A boy?
DIONYSUS
No, no.
HERACLES
A man?
DIONYSUS
Ah! ah!
HERACLES
Was it for Cleisthenes?
DIONYSUS
Don't mock me, brother: on my life I am
In a bad way: such fierce desire consumes me.
HERACLES
Aye, little brother? how?
DIONYSUS
I can't describe it.
But yet I'll tell you in a riddling way.
Have you e'er felt a sudden lust for soup?
HERACLES
Soup! Zeus-a-mercy, yes, ten thousand times.
DIONYSUS
Is the thing clear, or must I speak again?
HERACLES
Not of the soup: I'm clear about the soup.
DIONYSUS
Well, just that sort of pang devours my heart
For lost Euripides.
HERACLES
A dead man too.
DIONYSUS
And no one shall persuade me not to go
After the man.
HERACLES
Do you mean below, to Hades?
DIONYSUS
And lower still, if there's a lower still.
HERACLES
What on earth for?
DIONYSUS
I want a genuine poet,
"For some are not, and those that are, are bad."
HERACLES
What! does not Iophon live?
DIONYSUS
Well, he's the sole
Good thing remaining, if even he is good.
For even of that I'm not exactly certain.
HERACLES
If go you must, there's Sophocles-he comes
Before Euripides-why not take him?
DIONYSUS
Not till I've tried if Iophon's coin rings true
When he's alone, apart from Sophocles.
Besides, Euripides, the crafty rogue,
Will find a thousand shifts to get away,
But he was easy here, is easy there.
HERACLES
But Agathon, where is he?
DIONYSUS
He has gone and left us.
A genial poet, by his friends much missed.
HERACLES
Gone where?
DIONYSUS
To join the blessed in their banquets.
HERACLES
But what of Xenocles?
DIONYSUS
O he be hanged!
HERACLES
Pythangelus?
XANTHIAS
But never a word of me,
Not though my shoulder's chafed so terribly.
HERACLES But have you not a shoal of little songsters,
Tragedians by the myriad, who can chatter
A furlong faster than Euripides?
DIONYSUS
Those be mere vintage-leavings, jabberers, choirs
Of swallow-broods, degraders of their art,
Who get one chorus, and are seen no more,
The Muses' love once gained. But O, my friend,
Search where you will, you'll never find a true
Creative genius, uttering startling things.
HERACLES
Creative? how do you mean?
Who'll dare some novel venturesome conceit,
"Air, Zeus's chamber," or "Time's foot," or this,
"'Twas not my mind that swore: my tongue committed
A little perjury on its own account."
HERACLES
You like that style?
DIONYSUS
Like it? I dote upon it.
HERACLES
I vow its ribald nonsense, and you know it.
DIONYSUS
"Rule not my mind": you've got a house to mind.
HERACLES
Really and truly though 'tis paltry stuff.
DIONYSUS
Teach me to dine!
XANTHIAS
But never a word of me.
DIONYSUS
But tell me truly-'twas for this I came
Dressed up to mimic you-what friends received
And entertained you when you went below
To bring back Cerberus, in case I need them.
And tell me too the havens, fountains, shops,
Roads, resting-places, stews, refreshment-rooms,
Towns, lodgings, hostesses, with whom were found
The fewest bugs.
XANTHIAS
But never a word of me.
HERACLES
You are really game to go?
DIONYSUS
O drop that, can't you?
And tell me this: of all the roads you know
Which is the quickest way to get to Hades?
I want one not too warm, nor yet too cold.
HERACLES
Which shall I tell you first? which shall it be?
There's one by rope and bench: you launch away
And-hang yourself.
DIONYSUS
No thank you: that's too stifling.
HERACLES
Then there's a track, a short and beaten cut,
By pestle and mortar.
DIONYSUS
Hemlock, do you mean?
HERACLES
Just so.
DIONYSUS
No, that's too deathly cold a way;
You have hardly started ere your shins get numbed.
HERACLES
Well, would you like a steep and swift descent?
DIONYSUS
Aye, that's the style: my walking powers are small.
HERACLES
Go down to the Cerameicus.
DIONYSUS
And do what?
HERACLES
Climb to the tower's top pinnacle-
DIONYSUS
And then?
HERACLES
Observe the torch-race started, and when all
The multitude is shouting "Let them go,"
Let yourself go.
DIONYSUS
Go! whither?
HERACLES
To the ground.
DIONYSUS
And lose, forsooth, two envelopes of brain.
I'll not try that.
HERACLES
Which will you try?
DIONYSUS
The way
You went yourself.
HERACLES
A parlous voyage that,
For first you'll come to an enormous lake
Of fathomless depth.
DIONYSUS
And how am I to cross?
HERACLES
An ancient mariner will row you over
In a wee boat, so big. The fare's two obols.
DIONYSUS
Fie! The power two obols have, the whole world through!
How came they thither!
HERACLES
Theseus took them down.
And next you'll see great snakes and savage monsters
In tens of thousands.
DIONYSUS
You needn't try to scare me,
I'm going to go.
HERACLES
Then weltering seas of filth
And ever-rippling dung: and plunged therein,
Whoso has wronged the stranger here on earth,
Or robbed his boylove of the promised pay,
Or swinged his mother, or profanely smitten
His father's check, or sworn an oath forsworn,
Or copied out a speech of Morsimus.
DIONYSUS
There too, perdie, should he be plunged, whoe'er
Has danced the sword-dance of Cinesias.
HERACLES
And next the breath of flutes will float around you,
And glorious sunshine, such as ours, you'll see,
And myrtle groves, and happy bands who clap
Their hands in triumph, men and women too.
DIONYSUS
And who are they?
HERACLES
The happy mystic bands,
XANTHIAS
And I'm the donkey in the mystery show.
But I'll not stand it, not one instant longer.
HERACLES
Who'll tell you everything you want to know.
You'll find them dwelling close beside the road
You are going to travel, just at Pluto's gate.
And fare thee well, my brother.
DIONYSUS
And to you Good cheer.
(Exit HERACLES.)
Now sirrah, pick you up the traps.
XANTHIAS
Before I've put them down?
DIONYSUS
And quickly too.
XANTHIAS
No, prithee, no: but hire a body, one
They're carrying out, on purpose for the trip.
DIONYSUS
If I can't find one?
XANTHIAS
Then I'll take them.
DIONYSUS
Good.
And see they are carrying out a body now.

Here a CORPSE, wrapped in its grave-clothes,
and lying on a bier, is carried across the stage.

Hallo! you there, you deadman, are you willing
To carry down our little traps to Hades?
CORPSE
What are they?
DIONYSUS
These.
CORPSE
Two drachmas for the job?
DIONYSUS
Nay, that's too much.
CORPSE
Out of the pathway, you!
DIONYSUS
Beshrew thee, stop: may-be we'll strike a bargain.
CORPSE
Pay me two drachmas, or it's no use talking.
DIONYSUS
One and a half.
CORPSE
I'd liefer live again I
XANTHIAS
How absolute the knave is! He be hanged!
I'll go myself.
DIONYSUS
You're the right sort, my man.
Now to the ferry.

Enter CHARON.

CHARON
Yoh, up! lay her to.
XANTHIAS
Whatever's that?
DIONYSUS
Why, that's the lake, by Zeus,
Whereof he spake, and yon's the ferry-boat.
XANTHIAS
Poseidon, yes, and that old fellow's Charon.
DIONYSUS
Charon! O welcome, Charon! welcome, Charon!
CHARON
Who's for the Rest from every pain and ill?
Who's for the Lethe's plain? the Donkey-shearings?
Who's for Cerberia? Taenarum? or the Ravens?
DIONYSUS
I.
CHARON
Hurry in.
DIONYSUS
But where are you going really?
In truth to the Ravens?
CHARON
Aye, for your behoof. Step in.
DIONYSUS (to XANTHIAS)
Now, lad.
CHARON
A slave? I take no slave,
Unless he has fought for his bodyrights at sea.
XANTHIAS
I couldn't go. I'd got the eye-disease.
CHARON
Then fetch a circuit round about the lake.
XANTHIAS
Where must I wait?
CHARON
Beside the Withering stone, Hard by the Rest.
DIONYSUS
You understand?
XANTHIAS
Too well.
O, what ill omen crossed me as I started! Exit.
CHARON (to DIONYSUS)
Sit to the oar. (calling) Who else for the boat? Be quick.
(to DIONYSUS) Hi! what are you doing?
DIONYSUS
What am I doing? Sitting
On to the oar. You told me to, yourself
CHARON
Now sit you there, you little Potgut.
DIONYSUS
Now stretch your arms full length before you.
CHARON
Come, don't keep fooling; plant your feet, Pull with a will.
DIONYSUS
Why, how am I to pull?
I'm not an oarsman, seaman, Salaminian. I can't.
CHARON
You can. Just dip your oar in once,
You'll hear the loveliest timing songs.
DIONYSUS
What from?
CHARON
Frog-swans, most wonderful.
DIONYSUS
Then give the word.
CHARON
Heave ahoy! heave ahoy I
FROGS (off stage)
Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax,
Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax!
We children of the fountain and the lake
Let us wake
Our full choir-shout, as the flutes are ringing out,
Our symphony of clear-voiced song.
The song we used to love in the Marshland up above,
In praise of Dionysus to produce,
Of Nysaean Dionysus, son of Zeus,
When the revel-tipsy throng, all crapulous and gay,
To our precinct reeled along on the holy Pitcher day,
Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.
DIONYSUS
O, dear! O, dear! now I declare
I've got a bump upon my rump,
FROGS
Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.
DIONYSUS
But you, perchance, don't care.
FROGS
Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.
DIONYSUS
Hang you, and your ko-axing tool
There's nothing but ko-ax with you.
FROGS
That is right, Mr. Busybody, right!
For the Muses of the lyre love us well;
And hornfoot Pan who plays
on the pipe his jocund lays;
And Apollo, Harper bright,
in our Chorus takes delight;
For the strong reed's sake
which I grow within my lake
To be girdled in his lyre's deep shell.
Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.
DIONYSUS
My hands are blistered very sore;
My stern below is sweltering so,
'Twill soon, I know, upturn and roar
Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.
O tuneful race, O pray give o'er,
O sing no more.
FROGS
Ah, no! ah, no!
Loud and louder our chant must flow.
Sing if ever ye sang of yore,
When in sunny and glorious days
Through the rushes and marsh-flags springing
On we swept, in the joy of singing
Myriad-diving roundelays.
Or when fleeing the storm, we went
Down to the depths, and our choral song
Wildly raised to a loud and long
Bubble-bursting accompaniment.
FROGS and DIONYSUS
Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.
DIONYSUS
This timing song I take from you.
FROGS
That's a dreadful thing to do.
DIONYSUS
Much more dreadful, if I row
Till I burst myself, I trow.
FROGS and DIONYSUS
Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.
DIONYSUS
Go, hang yourselves; for what care I?
FROGS
All the same we'll shout and cry,
Stretching all our throats with song,
Shouting, crying, all day long,
FROGS and DIONYSUS
Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.
DIONYSUS
In this you'll never, never win.
FROGS
This you shall not beat us in.
DIONYSUS
No, nor ye prevail o'er me.
Never! never! I'll my song,
Shout, if need be, all day Yong,
Until I've learned to master your ko-ax.
Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.
I thought I'd put a stop to your ko-ax.
CHARON
Stop! Easy! Take the oar and push her to.
Now pay your fare and go.
DIONYSUS
Here' tis: two obols.
Xanthias! where's Xanthias? Is it Xanthias there?
XANTHIAS (off stage)
Hoi, hoi!
DIONYSUS
Come hither.
XANTHIAS (Entering)
Glad to meet you, master.
DIONYSUS
What have you there?
XANTHIAS
Nothing but filth and darkness.
DIONYSUS
But tell me, did you see the parricides
And perjured folk he mentioned?
XANTHIAS
Didn't you?
DIONYSUS
Poseidon, yes. Why look! (pointing to the audience)
I see them now.
What's the next step?
XANTHIAS
We'd best be moving on.
This is the spot where Heracles declared
Those savage monsters dwell.
DIONYSUS
O hang the fellow.
That's all his bluff: he thought to scare me off,
The jealous dog, knowing my plucky ways.
There's no such swaggerer lives as Heracles.
Why, I'd like nothing better than to achieve
Some bold adventure, worthy of our trip.
XANTHIAS
I know you would. Hallo! I hear a noise.
DIONYSUS
Where? what?
XANTHIAS
Behind us, there.
DIONYSUS
Get you behind.
XANTHIAS
No, it's in front.
DIONYSUS
Get you in front directly.
XANTHIAS
And now I see the most ferocious monster.
DIONYSUS
O, what's it like?
XANTHIAS
Like everything by turns.
Now it's a bull: now it's a mule: and now
The loveliest girl.
DIONYSUS
O, where? I'll go and meet her.
XANTHIAS
It's ceased to be a girl: it's a dog now.
DIONYSUS
It is Empusa!
XANTHIAS
Well, its face is all
Ablaze with fire.
DIONYSUS
Has it a copper leg?
XANTHIAS
A copper leg? yes, one; and one of cow dung.
DIONYSUS
O, whither shall I flee?
XANTHIAS
O, whither I?
DIONYSUS
My priest, protect me, and we'll sup together.
XANTHIAS
King Heracles, we're done for.
DIONYSUS
O, forbear, Good fellow, call me anything but that.
XANTHIAS
Well then, Dionysus.
DIONYSUS
O, that's worse again,
XANTHIAS (to the SPECTRE)
Aye, go thy way. O master,
here, come here.
DIONYSUS
O, what's up now?
XANTHIAS
Take courage; all's serene.
And, like Hegelochus, we now may say
"Out of the storm there comes a new wether."
Empusa's gone.
DIONYSUS
Swear it.
XANTHIAS
By Zeus she is.
DIONYSUS
Swear it again.
XANTHIAS
By Zeus.
DIONYSUS
Again.
XANTHIAS
By Zeus.
O dear, O dear, how pale I grew to see her,
But he, from fright has yellowed me all over.
DIONYSUS
Ah me, whence fall these evils on my head? on
Who is the god to blame for my destruction?
Air, Zeus's chamber, or the Foot of Time?

(A flute is played behind the scenes.)

XANTHIAS
What's the matter?
DIONYSUS
The breath of flutes.
XANTHIAS
Aye, and a whiff of torches
Breathed o'er me too; a very mystic whiff.
DIONYSUS
Then crouch we down, and mark what's going on.
CHORUS (in the distance)
O lacchus! O lacchus! O Iacchus!
XANTHIAS
I have it, master: 'tis those blessed Mystics,
Of whom he told us, sporting hereabouts.
They sing the Iacchus which Diagoras made.
DIONYSUS
I think so too: we had better both keep quiet
And so find out exactly what it is.

Enter CHORUS, who had chanted the songs of the FROGS, as initiates.

CHORUS
O Iacchus! power excelling,
here in stately temples dwelling.
O Iacchus! O lacchus!
Come to tread this verdant level,
Come to dance in mystic revel,
Come whilst round thy forehead hurtles
Many a wreath of fruitful myrtles,
Come with wild and saucy paces
Mingling in our joyous dance,
Pure and holy, which embraces
all the charms of all the Graces,
When the mystic choirs advance.
XANTHIAS
Holy and sacred queen, Demeter's daughter,
O, what a jolly whiff of pork breathed o'er me!
DIONYSUS
Hist! and perchance you'll get some tripe yourself.
CHORUS
Come, arise, from sleep awaking,
come the fiery torches shaking,
O Iacchus! O Iacchus!
Morning Star that shinest nightly.
Lo, the mead is blazing brightly,
Age forgets its years and sadness,
Aged knees curvet for gladness,
Lift thy flashing torches o'er us,
Marshal all thy blameless train,
Lead, O lead the way before us;
lead the lovely youthful Chorus
To the marshy flowery plain.
All evil thoughts and profane be still:
far hence, far hence from our choirs depart,
Who knows not well what the Mystics tell,
or is not holy and pure of heart;
Who ne'er has the noble revelry learned,
or danced the dance of the Muses high;
or shared in the Bacchic rites which old
bull-eating Cratinus's words supply;
Who vulgar coarse buffoonery loves,
though all untimely the they make;
Or lives not easy and kind with all,
or kindling faction forbears to slake,
But fans the fire, from a base desire
some pitiful gain for himself to reap;
Or takes, in office, his gifts and bribes,
while the city is tossed on the stormy deep;
Who fort or fleet to the foe betrays;
or, a vile Thorycion, ships away
Forbidden stores from Aegina's shores,
to Epidaurus across the Bay
Transmitting oar-pads and sails and tar,
that curst collector of five per cents;
The knave who tries to procure supplies
for the use of the enemy's armaments;
The Cyclian singer who dares befoul
the Lady Hecate's wayside shrine;
The public speaker who once lampooned
in our Bacchic feasts would, with heart malign,
Keep nibbling away the Comedians' pay;-
to these I utter my warning cry,
I charge them once, I charge them twice,
I charge them thrice, that they draw not nigh
To the sacred dance of the Mystic choir.
But ye, my comrades, awake the song,
The night-long revels of joy and mirth
which ever of right to our feast belong.
Advance, true hearts, advance!
On to the gladsome bowers,
On to the sward, with flowers
Embosomed bright!
March on with jest, and jeer, and dance,
Full well ye've supped to-night.
March, chanting loud your lays,
Your hearts and voices raising,
The Saviour goddess praising
Who vows she'll still
Our city save to endless days,
Whate'er Thorycion's will.
Break off the measure, and change the time;
and now with chanting and hymns adorn
Demeter, goddess mighty and high,
the harvest-queen, the giver of corn.
O Lady, over our rites presiding,
Preserve and succour thy choral throng,
And grant us all, in thy help confiding,
To dance and revel the whole day long;
And much in earnest, and much in jest,
Worthy thy feast, may we speak therein.
And when we have bantered and laughed our best,
The victor's wreath be it ours to win.
Call we now the youthful god,
call him hither without delay,
Him who travels amongst his chorus,
dancing along on the Sacred Way.
O, come with the joy of thy festival song,
O, come to the goddess, O, mix with our throng
Untired, though the journey be never so long.
O Lord of the frolic and dance,
lacchus, beside me advance!
For fun, and for cheapness, our dress thou hast rent,
Through thee we may dance to the top of our bent,
Reviling, and jeering, and none will resent.
O Lord of the frolic and dance,
lacchus, beside me advance!
A sweet pretty girl I observed in the show,
Her robe had been torn in the scuffle, and lo,
There peeped through the tatters a bosom of snow.
O Lord of the frolic and dance,
lacchus, beside me advance!
DIONYSUS
Wouldn't I like to follow on, and try
A little sport and dancing?
XANTHIAS
Wouldn't I?
CHORUS
Shall we all a merry joke
At Archedemus poke,
Who has not cut his guildsmen yet, though seven years old;
Yet up among the dead
He is demagogue and head
And contrives the topmost place of the rascaldom to hold?
And Cleisthenes, they say,
Is among the tombs all day,
Bewailing for his lover with a lamentable whine.
And Callias, I'm told,
Has become a sailor bold,
And casts a lion's hide o'er his members feminine.
DIONYSUS
Can any of you tell
Where Pluto here may dwell,
For we, sirs, are two strangers who were never here before?
CHORUS
O, then no further stray,
Nor again inquire the way,
For know that ye have journeyed to his very entrance-door.
DIONYSUS
Take up the wraps, my lad.
XANTHIAS
Now is not this too bad?
Like "Zeus's Corinth," he "the wraps" keeps saying o'er and o'er.
CHORUS
Now wheel your sacred dances through the glade
with flowers bedight,
All ye who are partakers of the holy festal rite;
And I will with the women and the holy maidens go
Where they keep the nightly vigil, an auspicious
light to show.
Now haste we to the roses,
And the meadows full of posies,
Now haste we to the meadows
In our own old way,
In choral dances blending,
In dances never ending,
Which only for the holy
The Destinies array.
O, happy mystic chorus,
The blessed sunshine o'er us
On us alone is smiling,
In its soft sweet light:
On us who strove forever
With holy, pure endeavour,
Alike by friend and stranger
To guide our steps aright.
DIONYSUS
What's the right way to knock? I wonder how
The natives here are wont to knock at doors.
XANTHIAS
No dawdling: taste the door. You've got, remember,
The lion-hide and pride of Heracles.
DIONYSUS (knocking)
Boy! boy!

The door opens. AEACUS appears.

AEACUS
Who's there?
DIONYSUS
I, Heracles the strong!
AEACUS
O, you most shameless desperate ruffian, you
O, villain, villain, arrant vilest villain!
Who seized our Cerberus by the throat, and fled,
And ran, and rushed, and bolted, haling of
The dog, my charge! But now I've got thee fast.
So close the Styx's inky-hearted rock,
The blood-bedabbled peak of Acheron
Shall hem thee in: the hell-hounds of Cocytus
Prowl round thee; whilst the hundred-headed Asp
Shall rive thy heart-strings: the Tartesian Lamprey
Prey on thy lungs: and those Tithrasian Gorgons
Mangle and tear thy kidneys, mauling them,
Entrails and all, into one bloody mash.
I'll speed a running foot to fetch them hither.

Exit AEACUS.

XANTHIAS
Hallo! what now?
DIONYSUS
I've done it: call the god.
XANTHIAS
Get up, you laughing-stock; get up directly,
Before you're seen.
DIONYSUS
What, I get up? I'm fainting.
Please dab a sponge of water on my heart.
XANTHIAS
Here! Dab it on.
DIONYSUS
Where is it?
XANTHIAS
Ye golden gods,
Lies your heart there?
DIONYSUS
It got so terrified
It fluttered down into my stomach's pit.
XANTHIAS
Cowardliest of gods and men!
DIONYSUS
The cowardliest? I?
What I, who asked you for a sponge, a thing
A coward never would have done!
XANTHIAS
What then?
DIONYSUS
A coward would have lain there wallowing;
But I stood up, and wiped myself withal.
XANTHIAS
Poseidon! quite heroic.
DIONYSUS
'Deed I think so.
But weren't you frightened at those dreadful threats
And shoutings?
XANTHIAS
Frightened? Not a bit. I cared not.
DIONYSUS
Come then, if you're so very brave a man,
Will you be I, and take the hero's club
And lion's skin, since you're so monstrous plucky?
And I'll be now the slave, and bear the luggage.
XANTHIAS
Hand them across. I cannot choose but take them.
And now observe the Xanthio-heracles
If I'm a coward and a sneak like you.
DIONYSUS
Nay, you're the rogue from Melite's own self.
And I'll pick up and carry on the traps.

Enter a MAID-SERVANT of Persephone, from the door.
MAID
O welcome, Heracles! come in, sweetheart.
My Lidy, when they told her, set to work,
Baked mighty loaves, boiled two or three tureens
Of lentil soup, roasted a prime ox whole,
Made rolls and honey-cakes. So come along.
XANTHIAS (declining)
You are too kind.
MAID
I will not let you go.
I will not let you! Why, she's stewing slices
Of juicy bird's-flesh, and she's making comfits,
And tempering down her richest wine. Come, dear,
Come along in.
XANTHIAS (still declining)
Pray thank her.
MAID
O you're jesting,
I shall not let you off: there's such a lovely
Flute-girl all ready, and we've two or three
Dancing-girls also.
XANTHIAS
Eh! what! Dancing-girls?
MAID
Young budding virgins, freshly tired and trimmed.
Come, dear, come in. The cook was dishing up
The cutlets, and they are bringing in the tables.
XANTHIAS
Then go you in, and tell those dancing-girls
Of whom you spake, I'm coming in Myself.

Exit MAID.

Pick up the traps, my lad, and follow me.
DIONYSUS
Hi! stop! you're not in earnest, just because
I dressed you up, in fun, as Heracles?
Come, don't keep fooling, Xanthias, but lift
And carry in the traps yourself
You are never going to strip me of these togs
You gave me!
DIONYSUS
Going to? No, I'm doing it now.
off with that lion-skin.
XANTHIAS
Bear witness all,
The gods shall judge between us.
DIONYSUS
Gods, indeed!
Why, how could you (the vain and foolish thought I)
A slave, a mortal, act Alemena's son?
XANTHIAS
All right then, take them; maybe, if God will,
You'll soon require my services again.
CHORUS
This is the part of a dexterous clever
Man with his wits about him ever,
One who has travelled the world to see;
Always to shift, and to keep through all
Close to the sunny side of the wall;
Not like a pictured block to be,
Standing always in one position;
Nay but to veer, with expedition,
And ever to catch the favouring breeze,
This is the part of a shrewd tactician,
This is to be a-Theramenes!
DIONYSUS
Truly an exquisite joke 'twould be,
Him with a dancing-girl to see,
Lolling at ease on Milesian rugs;
Me, like a slave, beside him standing,
Aught that he wants to his lordship handing;
Then as the damsel fair he hugs,
Seeing me all on fire to embrace her,
He would perchance (for there's no man baser),
Turning him round like a lazy lout,
Straight on my mouth deliver a facer,
Knocking my ivory choirmen out.

Enter HOSTESS and PLATHANE.

Hostess. O Plathane! Plathane! that naughty man,
That's he who got into our tavern once,
And ate up sixteen loaves.
PLATHANE
O, so he is! The very man.
XANTHIAS
Bad luck for somebody!
HOSTESS
O and, besides, those twenty bits of stew,
Half-obol pieces.
XANTHIAS
Somebody's going to catch it!
HOSTESS
That garlic too.
DIONYSUS
Woman, you're talking nonsense.
You don't know what you're saying.
HOSTESS
O, you thought
I shouldn't know you with your buskins on!
Ah, and I've not yet mentioned all that fish,
No, nor the new-made cheese: he gulped it down,
Baskets and all, unlucky that we were.
And when I just alluded to the price,
He looked so fierce, and bellowed like a bull.
XANTHIAS
Yes, that's his way: that's what he always does.
HOSTESS
O, and he drew his sword, and seemed quite mad.
PLATHANE
O, that he did.
HOSTESS
And terrified us so
We sprang up to the cockloft, she and I.
Then out he hurled, decamping with the rugs.
XANTHIAS
That's his way too; something must be done.
HOSTESS
Quick, run and call my patron Cleon here
PLATHANE
O, if you meet him, call Hyperbolus!
We'll pay you out to-day.
HOSTESS
O filthy throat,
O how I'd like to take a stone, and hack
Those grinders out with which you chawed my wares.
PLATHANE
I'd like to pitch you in the deadman's pit.
HOSTESS
I'd like to get a reaping-hook and scoop
That gullet out with which you gorged my tripe.
But I'll to Cleon: he'll soon serve his writs;
He'll twist it out of you to-day, he will.

Exeunt HOSTESS and PLATHANE.

DIONYSUS
Perdition seize me, if I don't love Xanthias.
XANTHIAS
Aye, aye, I know your drift: stop, stop that talking
I won't be Heracles.
DIONYSUS
O, don't say so,
Dear, darling Xanthias.
XANTHIAS
Why, how can I,
A slave, a mortal, act Alemena's son!
DIONYSUS
Aye, aye, I know you are vexed, and I deserve
And if you pummel me, I won't complain.
But if I strip you of these togs again,
Perdition seize myself, my wife, my children,
And, most of all, that blear-eyed Archedemus.
XANTHIAS
That oath contents me: on those terms I take them.
CHORUS
Now that at last you appear once more,
Wearing the garb that at first you wore,
Wielding the club and the tawny skin,
Now it is yours to be up and doing,
Glaring like mad, and your youth renewing,
Mindful of him whose guise you are in.
If, when caught in a bit of a scrape, you
Suffer a word of alarm to escape you,
Showing yourself but a feckless knave,
Then will your master at once undrape you,
Then you'll again be the toiling slave.
XANTHIAS
There, I admit, you have given to me
Capital hint, and the like idea,
Friends, had occurred to myself before.
Truly if anything good befell
He would be wanting, I know full well,
Wanting to take to the togs once more.
Nevertheless, while in these I'm vested,
Ne'er shall you find me craven-crested,
No, for a dittany look I'll wear,
Aye and methinks it will soon be tested,
Hark! how the portals are rustling there.

Re-enter AEACUS with assistants.

AEACUS
Seize the dog-stealer, bind him, pinion him,
Drag him to justice
DIONYSUS
Somebody's going to catch it.
XANTHIAS (striking out)
Hands off! away! stand back!
AEACUS
Eh? You're for fighting.
Ho! Ditylas, Sceblyas, and Pardocas,
Come hither, quick; fight me this sturdy knave.
DIONYSUS
Now isn't it a shame the man should strike
And he a thief besides?
AEACUS
A monstrous shame!
DIONYSUS
A regular burning shame!
XANTHIAS
By the Lord Zeus,
If ever I was here before, if ever
I stole one hair's-worth from you, let me die!
And now I'll make you a right noble offer,
Arrest my lad: torture him as you will,
And if you find I'm guilty, take and kill me.
AEACUS
Torture him, how?
XANTHIAS
In any mode you please.
Pile bricks upon him: stuff his nose with acid:
Flay, rack him, hoist him; flog him with a scourge
Of prickly bristles: only not with this,
A soft-leaved onion, or a tender leek.
AEACUS
A fair proposal. If I strike too hard
And maim the boy, I'll make you compensation.
XANTHIAS
I shan't require it. Take him out and flog him.
AEACUS
Nay, but I'll do it here before your eyes.
Now then, put down the traps, and mind you speak
The truth, young fellow.
DIONYSUS (in agony)
Man' don't torture me!
I am a god. You'll blame yourself hereafter
If you touch me.
AEACUS
Hillo! What's that you are saying?
DIONYSUS
I say I'm Bacchus, son of Zeus, a god,
And he's the slave.
AEACUS
You hear him?
XANTHIAS
Hear him? Yes.
All the more reason you should flog him well.
For if he is a god, he won't perceive it.
DIONYSUS
Well, but you say that you're a god yourself.
So why not you be flogged as well as I?
XANTHIAS
A fair proposal. And be this the test,
Whichever of us two you first behold
Flinching or crying out-he's not the god.
AEACUS
Upon my word you're quite the gentleman,
You're all for right and justice. Strip then, both.
XANTHIAS
How can you test us fairly?
AEACUS
Easily. I'll give you blow for blow.
XANTHIAS
A good idea.
We're ready now! (AEACUS strikes him) see if you
catch me flinching.
AEACUS
I struck you.
XANTHIAS (incredulously)
No!
AEACUS
Well, it seems "no" indeed.
Now then I'll strike the other. (Strikes DIONYSUS.)
DIONYSUS
Tell me when?
AEACUS
I struck you.
DIONYSUS
Struck me? Then why didn't I sneeze?
AEACUS
Don't know, I'm sure. I'll try the other again.
XANTHIAS
And quickly too. Good gracious!
AEACUS
Why "good gracious"?
Not hurt you, did I?
XANTHIAS
No, I merely thought of
The Diomeian feast of Heracles.
AEACUS
A holy man! 'Tis now the other's turn.
DIONYSUS
Hi! Hi!
AEACUS
Hallo!
DIONYSUS
Look at those horsemen, look!
AEACUS
But why these tears?
DIONYSUS
There's such a smell of onions.
AEACUS
Then you don't mind it?
DIONYSUS (cheerfully)
Mind it? Not a bit.
AEACUS
Well, I must go to the other one again.
XANTHIAS
O! O!
AEACUS
Hallo!
XANTHIAS
Do pray pull out this thorn.
AEACUS
What does it mean? 'Tis this one's turn again.
DIONYSUS (shrieking)
Apollo! Lord! (calmly) of Delos
and of Pytho.
XANTHIAS
He flinched! You heard him?
DIONYSUS
Not at all; a jolly Verse of Hipponax flashed across my mind.
XANTHIAS
You don't half do it: cut his flanks to pieces.
AEACUS
By Zeus, well thought on. Turn your belly here.
DIONYSUS (screaming)
Poseidon!
XANTHIAS
There! he's flinching.
DIONYSUS (singing)
who dost reign
Amongst the Aegean peaks and creeks
And oer the deep blue main.
AEACUS
No, by Demeter, still I can't find out
Which is the god, but come ye both indoors;
My lord himself and Persephassa there,
Being gods themselves, will soon find out the truth.
DIONYSUS
Right! right! I only wish you had thought of that
Before you gave me those tremendous whacks.

Exeunt DIONYSUS, XANTHIAS, AEACUS, and attendants.

CHORUS
Come, Muse, to our Mystical Chorus,
O come to the joy of my song,
O see on the benches before us
that countless and wonderful throng,
Where wits by the thousand abide,
with more than a Cleophon's pride-
On the lips of that foreigner base,
of Athens the bane and disgrace,
There is shrieking, his kinsman by race,
The garrulous swallow of Thrace;
From that perch of exotic descent,
Rejoicing her sorrow to vent,
She pours to her spirit's content,
a nightingale's woful lament,
That e'en though the voting be equal,
his ruin will soon be the sequel.
Well it suits the holy Chorus
evermore with counsel wise
To exhort and teach the city;
this we therefore now advise-
End the townsmen's apprehensions;
equalize the rights of all;
If by Phrynichus's wrestlings
some perchance sustained a fall,
Yet to these 'tis surely open,
having put away their sin,
For their slips and vacillations
pardon at your hands to win.
Give your brethren back their franchise.
Sin and shame it were that slaves,
Who have once with stern devotion
fought your battle on the waves,
Should be straightway lords and masters,
yea Plataeans fully blown-
Not that this deserves our censure;
there I praise you; there alone
Has the city, in her anguish,
policy and wisdom shown-
Nay but these, of old accustomed
on our ships to fight and win,
(They, their fathers too before them),
these our very kith and kin,
You should likewise, when they ask you,
pardon for their single sin.
O by nature best and wisest,
O relax your jealous ire,
Let us all the world as kinsfolk
and as citizens acquire,
All who on our ships will battle
well and bravely by our side.
If we cocker up our city,
narrowing her with senseless pride,
Now when she is rocked and reeling
in the cradles of the sea,
Here again will after ages deem we acted brainlessly.
And O if I'm able to scan
the habits and life of a man
Who shall rue his iniquities soon!
not long shall that little baboon,
That Cleigenes shifty and small,
the wickedest bathman of all
Who are lords of the earth-which is brought
from the isle of Cimolus, and wrought
With nitre and lye into soap-
Not long shall he vex us, I hope.
And this the unlucky one knows,
Yet ventures a peace to oppose,
And being addicted to blows
he carries a stick as he goes,
Lest while he is tipsy and reeling,
some robber his cloak should be stealing.
Often has it crossed my fancy,
that the city loves to deal
With the very best and noblest
members of her commonweal,
just as with our ancient coinage,
and the newly-minted gold.
Yea for these, our sterling pieces,
all of pure Athenian mould,
All of perfect die and metal,
all the fairest of the fair,
All of workmanship unequalled,
proved and valued everywhere
Both amongst our own Hellenes
and Barbarians far away,
These we use not: but the worthles
pinchbeck coins of yesterday,
Vilest die and basest metal,
now we always use instead.
Even so, our sterling townsmen,
nobly born and nobly bred,
Men of worth and rank and mettle,
men of honourable fame,
Trained in every liberal science,
choral dance and manly game,
These we treat with scorn and insult,
but the strangers newliest come,
Worthless sons of worthless fathers,
pinchbeck townsmen, yellowy scum,
Whom in earlier days the city
hardly would have stooped to use
Even for her scapegoat victims,
these for every task we choose.
O unwise and foolish people,
yet to mend your ways begin;
Use again the good and useful:
so hereafter, if ye win
'Twill be due to this your wisdom:
if ye fall, at least 'twill be
Not a fall that brings dishonour,
falling from a worthy tree.

Enter AEACUS, XANTHIAS and two attendants.

AEACUS
By Zeus the Saviour, quite the gentleman
Your master is.
XANTHIAS
Gentleman? I believe you.
He's all for wine and women, is my master.
AEACUS
But not to have flogged you, when the truth came out
That you, the slave, were passing off as master!
XANTHIAS
He'd get the worst of that.
AEACUS
Bravo! that's spoken
Like a true slave: that's what I love myself.
XANTHIAS
You love it, do you?
AEACUS
Love it? I'm entranced
When I can curse my lord behind his back.
XANTHIAS
How about grumbling, when you have felt the stick,
And scurry out of doors?
AEACUS
That's jolly too.
XANTHIAS
How about prying?
AEACUS
That beats everything,
XANTHIAS
Great Kin-god Zeus! And what of overhearing
Your master's secrets?
AEACUS
What? I'm mad with joy.
XANTHIAS
And blabbing them abroad?
AEACUS
O heaven and earth!
When I do that, I can't contain myself.
XANTHIAS
Phoebus Apollo! clap your hand in mine,
Kiss and be kissed: and prithee tell me this,
Tell me by Zeus, our rascaldom's own god,
What's all that noise within? What means this hubbub
And row?
AEACUS
That's Aeschylus and Euripides.
XANTHIAS
Eh?
AEACUS
Wonderful, wonderful things are going on.
The dead are rioting, taking different sides.
XANTHIAS
Why, what's the matter?
AEACUS
There's a custom here
With all the crafts, the good and noble crafts,
That the chief master of art in each
Shall have his dinner in the assembly hall,
And sit by Pluto's side.
XANTHIAS
I understand.
AEACUS
Until another comes, more wise than he
In the same art: then must the first give way.
XANTHIAS
And how has this disturbed our Aeschylus?
AEACUS
'Twas he that occupied the tragic chair,
As, in his craft, the noblest.
XANTHIAS
Who does now?
AEACUS
But when Euripides came down, he kept
Flourishing off before the highwaymen,
Thieves, burglars, parricides-these form our mob
In Hades-till with listening to his twists
And turns, and pleas and counterpleas, they went
Mad on the man, and hailed him first and wisest:
Elate with this, he claimed the tragic chair
Where Aeschylus was seated.
XANTHIAS
Wasn't he pelted?
AEACUS
Not he: the populace clamoured out to try
Which of the twain was wiser in his art.
XANTHIAS
You mean the rascals?
AEACUS
Aye, as high as heaven!
XANTHIAS
But were there none to side with Aeschylus?
AEACUS
Scanty and sparse the good, (regards the
audience) the same as here.
XANTHIAS
And what does Pluto now propose to do?
AEACUS
He means to hold a tournament, and bring
Their tragedies to the proof.
XANTHIAS
But Sophocles,
How came not he to claim the tragic chair?
AEACUS
Claim it? Not he! When he came down, he kissed
With reverence Aeschylus, and clasped his hand,
And yielded willingly the chair to him.
But now he's going, says Cleidemides,
To sit third-man: and then if Aeschylus win,
He'll stay content: if not, for his art's sake,
He'll fight to the death against Euripides.
XANTHIAS
Will it come off?
AEACUS
O yes, by Zeus, directly.
And then, I hear, will wonderful things be done,
The art poetic will be weighed in scales.
XANTHIAS
What I weigh out tragedy, like butcher's meat?
AEACUS
Levels they'll bring, and measuring-tapes for words,
And moulded oblongs,
XANTHIAS
Is it bricks they are making?
AEACUS
Wedges and compasses: for Euripides
Vows that he'll test the dramas, word by word.
XANTHIAS
Aeschylus chafes at this, I fancy.
AEACUS
Well, He lowered his brows, upglaring like a bull.
XANTHIAS
And who's to be the judge?
AEACUS
There came the rub.
Skilled men were hard to find: for with the Athenians
Aeschylus, somehow, did not hit it off,
XANTHIAS
Too many burglars, I expect, he thought.
AEACUS
And all the rest, he said, were trash and nonsense
To judge poetic wits. So then at last
They chose your lord, an expert in the art.
But we go in for when our lords are bent
On urgent business, that means blows for us.
CHORUS
O surely with terrible wrath
will the thunder-voiced monarch be filled,
When he sees his opponent beside him,
the tonguester, the artifice-skilled,
Stand, whetting his tusks for the fight!
O surely, his eyes rolling-fell
Will with terrible madness be fraught I
O then will be charging of plume-waving words
with their wild-floating mane,
And then will be whirling of splinters,
and phrases smoothed down with the plane,
When the man would the grand-stepping maxims,
the language gigantic, repel
Of the hero-creator of thought.
There will his shaggy-born crest
upbristle for anger and woe,
Horribly frowning and growling,
his fury will launch at the foe
Huge-clamped masses of words,
with exertion Titanic up-tearing
Great ship-timber planks for the fray.
But here will the tongue be at work,
uncoiling, word-testing, refining,
Sophist-creator of phrases,
dissecting, detracting, maligning,
Shaking the envious bits,
and with subtle analysis paring
The lung's large labour away.

Here apparently there is a complete change of scene, to the Hall
of Pluto, with himself sitting on his throne, and DIONYSUS, AESCHYLUS,
and the foreground.

EURIPIDES
Don't talk to me; I won't give up the chair,
I say I am better in the art than he.
DIONYSUS
You hear him, Aeschylus: why don't you speak?
EURIPIDES
He'll do the grand at first, the juggling trick
He used to play in all his tragedies.
DIONYSUS
Come, my fine fellow, pray don't talk to big.
EURIPIDES
I know the man, I've scanned him through and through,
A savage-creating stubborn-pulling fellow,
Uncurbed, unfettered, uncontrolled of speech,
Unperiphrastic, bombastiloquent.
AESCHYLUS
Hah! sayest thou so, child of the garden quean
And this to me, thou chattery-babble-collector,
Thou pauper-creating rags-and-patches-stitcher?
Thou shalt abye it dearly!
DIONYSUS
Pray, be still;
Nor heat thy soul to fury, Aeschylus.
AESCHYLUS
Not till I've made you see the sort of man
This cripple-maker is who crows so loudly.
DIONYSUS
Bring out a ewe, a black-fleeced ewe, my boys:
Here's a typhoon about to burst upon us.
AESCHYLUS
Thou picker-up of Cretan monodies,
Foisting thy tales of incest on the stage-
DIONYSUS
Forbear, forbear, most honoured Aeschylus;
And you, my poor Euripides, begone
If you are wise, out of this pitiless hail,
Lest with some heady word he crack your scull
And batter out your brain-less Telephus.
And not with passion, Aeschylus, but calmly
Test and be tested. 'Tis not meet for poets
To scold each other, like two baking-girls.
But you go roaring like an oak on fire.
EURIPIDES
I'm ready, I don't draw back one bit.
I'll lash or, if he will, let him lash first
The talk, the lays, the sinews of a play:
Aye and my Peleus, aye and Aeolus.
And Meleager, aye and Telephus.
DIONYSUS
And what do you propose? Speak, Aeschylus.
AESCHYLUS
I could have wished to meet him otherwhere.
We fight not here on equal terms.
DIONYSUS
Why not?
AESCHYLUS
My poetry survived me: his died with him:
He's got it here, all handy to recite.
Howbeit, if so you wish it, so we'll have it.
DIONYSUS
O bring me fire, and bring me frankincense.
I'll pray, or e'er the clash of wits begin,
To judge the strife with high poetic skill.
Meanwhile (to the CHORUS) invoke the Muses with a song.

CHORUS
O Muses, the daughters divine
of Zeus, the immaculate Nine,
Who gaze from your mansions serene
on intellects subtle and keen,
When down to the tournament lists,
in bright-polished wit they descend,
With wrestling and turnings and twists
in the battle of words to contend,
O come and behold what the two
antagonist poets can do,
Whose mouths are the swiftest to teach
grand language and filings of speech:
For now of their wits is the sternest
encounter commencing in earnest.
DIONYSUS
Ye two, put up your prayers before ye start.
AESCHYLUS
Demeter, mistress, nourisher of my soul,
O make me worthy of thy mystic rites!
DIONYSUS (to EURIPIDES)
Now put on incense, you.
EURIPIDES
Excuse me, no;
My vows are paid to other gods than these.
DIONYSUS
What, a new coinage of your own?
EURIPIDES
Precisely.
DIONYSUS
Pray then to them, those private gods of yours.
EURIPIDES
Ether, my pasture, volubly-rolling tongue,
Intelligent wit and critic nostrils keen,
O well and neatly may I trounce his plays!
CHORUS
We also are yearning from these to be learning
Some stately measure, some majestic grand
Movement telling of conflicts nigh.
Now for battle arrayed they stand,
Tongues embittered, and anger high.
Each has got a venturesome will,
Each an eager and nimble mind;
One will wield, with artistic skill,
Clearcut phrases, and wit refined;
Then the other, with words defiant,
Stern and strong, like an angry giant
Laying on with uprooted trees,
Soon will scatter a world of these
Superscholastic subtleties.
DIONYSUS
Now then, commence your arguments,
and mind you both display
True wit, not metaphors, nor things
which any fool could say.
EURIPIDES
As for myself, good people all,
I'll tell you by-and-by
My own poetic worth and claims;
but first of all I'll try
To show how this portentous quack
beguiled the silly fools
Whose tastes were nurtured, ere he came,
in Phrynichus's schools.
He'd bring some single mourner on,
seated and veiled, 'twould be
Achilles, say, or Niobe
-the face you could not see-
An empty show of tragic woe,
who uttered not one thing.
DIONYSUS
'Tis true.
EURIPIDES
Then in the Chorus came, and rattled off a string
four continuous lyric odes:
the mourner never stirred.
DIONYSUS
I liked it too. I sometimes think
that I those mutes preferred
To all your chatterers now-a-days.
EURIPIDES
Because, if you must know,
You were an ass.
DIONYSUS
An ass, no doubt;
what made him do it though?
EURIPIDES
That was his quackery, don't you see,
to set the audience guessing
When Niobe would speak; meanwhile,
the drama was progressing.
DIONYSUS
The rascal, how he took me in!
'Twas shameful, was it not?
(To AESCHYLUS) What makes you stamp and fidget so?
EURIPIDES
He's catching it so hot.
So when he had humbugged thus awhile,
and now his wretched play
Was halfway through, a dozen words,
great wild-bull words, he'd say,
Fierce Bugaboos, with bristling crests,
and shaggy eyebrows too,
Which not a soul could understand.
AESCHYLUS
O heavens!
DIONYSUS
Be quiet, do.
EURIPIDES
But not one single word was clear.
DIONYSUS
St! don't your teeth be gnashing.
EURIPIDES
'Twas all Scamanders, moated camps,
and griffin-eagles flashing
In burnished copper on the shields,
chivalric-precipice-high
Expressions, hard to comprehend.
DIONYSUS
Aye, by the Powers, and
Full many a sleepless night have spent
in anxious thought, because
I'd find the tawny cock-horse out,
what sort of bird it was!
AESCHYLUS
It was a sign, you stupid dolt,
engraved the ships upon.
DIONYSUS
Eryxis I supposed it was,
Philoxenus's son.
EURIPIDES
Now really should a cock be brought
into a tragic play?
AESCHYLUS
You enemy gods and men,
what was your practice, pray?
EURIPIDES
No cock-horse in my plays, by Zeus,
no goat-stag there you'll see,
Such figures as are blazoned forth
in Median tapestry.
When first I took the art from you,
bloated and swoln, poor thing,
With turgid gasconading words
and heavy dieting,
First I reduced and toned her down,
and made her slim and neat
With wordlets and with exercise
and poultices of beet,
And next a dose of chatterjuice,
distilled from books, I gave her,
And monodies she took, with sharp
Cephisophon for flavour.
I never used haphazard words,
or plunged abruptly in;
Who entered first explained at large
the drama's origin
And source.
AESCHYLUS
Its source, I really trust,
was better than your own.
EURIPIDES
Then from the very opening lines
no idleness was shown;
The mistress talked with all her might,
the servant talked as much,
The master talked, the maiden talked,
the beldame talked.
An outrage was not death your due?
EURIPIDES
No, by Apollo, no:
That was my democratic way.
DIONYSUS
Ah, let that topic go.
Your record is not there, my friend,
particularly good.
EURIPIDES
Then next I taught all these to speak.
AESCHYLUS
You did so, and I would
That ere such mischief you had wrought,
your very rungs had split.
EURIPIDES
Canons of verse I introduced,
and neatly chiselled wit;
To look, to scan: to plot, to plan:
to twist, to turn, to woo:
On all to spy; in all to pry.
AESCHYLUS
You did: I say so too.
EURIPIDES
I showed them scenes of common life,
the things we know and see,
Where any blunder would at once
by all detected be.
I never blustered on, or took
their breath and wits away
By Cycnuses or Memnons clad
in terrible array,
With bells upon their horses' heads,
the audience to dismay.
Look at his pupils, look at mine:
and there the contrast view.
Uncouth Megaenetus is his,
and rough Phormisius too;
Great long-beard-lance-and-trumpet-men,
flesh-tearers with the pine:
But natty smart Theramenes,
and Cleitophon are mine.
DIONYSUS
Theramenes? a clever man
and wonderfully sly:
Immerse him in a flood of ills,
he'll soon be high and dry,
"A Kian with a kappa, sir,
not Chian with a chi."
EURIPIDES
I taught them all these knowing ways
By chopping logic in my plays,
And making all my speakers try
To reason out the How and Why.
So now the people trace the springs,
The sources and the roots of things,
And manage all their households to
Far better than they used to do,
Scanning and searching "What's amiss?"
And, "Why was that?" And, "How is this?"
DIONYSUS
Ay, truly, never now a man
Comes home, but he begins to scan;
And to his household loudly cries,
"Why, where's my pitcher? What's the matter?
'Tis dead and my last year's platter.
Who gnawed these olives? Bless the sprat,
Who nibbled off the head of that?
And where's the garlic vanished, pray,
I purchased only yesterday?"
-Whereas, of old, our stupid youths
Would sit, with open mouths and eyes,
Like any dull-brained Mammacouths.
CHORUS
"All this thou beholdest, Achilles our boldest."
And what wilt thou reply? Draw tight the rein
Lest that fiery soul of thine
Whirl thee out of the listed plain,
Past the olives, and o'er the line.
Dire and grievous the charge he brings.
See thou answer him, noble heart,
Not with passionate bickerings.
Shape thy course with a sailor's art,
Reef the canvas, shorten the sails,
Shift them edgewise to shun the gales.
When the breezes are soft and low,
Then, well under control, you'll go
Quick and quicker to strike the foe.
O first of all the Hellenic bards
high loftily-towering verse to rear,
And tragic phrase from the dust to raise,
pour forth thy fountain with right good cheer.
AESCHYLUS
My wrath is hot at this vile mischance,
and my spirit revolts at the thought that
Must bandy words with a fellow like him:
but lest he should vaunt that I can't reply-
Come, tell me what are the points for which
a noble poet our praise obtains.
EURIPIDES
For his ready wit, and his counsels sage,
and because the citizen folk he trains
To be better townsmen and worthier men.
AESCHYLUS
If then you have done the very reverse,
Found noble-hearted and virtuous men,
and altered them, each and all, for the worse,
Pray what is the meed you deserve to get?
DIONYSUS
Nay, ask not him. He deserves to die.
AESCHYLUS
For just consider what style of men
he received from me, great six-foot-high
Heroical souls, who never would blench
from a townsman's duties in peace or war;
Not idle loafers, or low buffoons,
or rascally scamps such as now they are.
But men who were breathing spears and helms,
and the snow-white plume in its crested pride,
The greave, and the dart, and the warrior's heart
in its sevenfold casing of tough bull-hide.
DIONYSUS
He'll stun me, I know, with his armoury-work;
this business is going from bad to worse.
EURIPIDES
And how did you manage to make them so grand,
exalted, and brave with your wonderful verse?
DIONYSUS
Come, Aeschylus, answer, and don't stand mute
in your self-willed pride and arrogant spleen.
AESCHYLUS
A drama I wrote with the War-god filled.
DIONYSUS
Its name?
AESCHYLUS
'Tis the Seven against Thebes that I mean.
Which whoso beheld, with eagerness swelled
to rush to the battlefield there and then.
DIONYSUS
O that was a scandalous thing you did!
You have made the Thebans mightier men,
More eager by far for the business of war.
Now, therefore, receive this punch on the head.
AESCHYLUS
Ah, ye might have practised the same yourselves,
but ye turned to other pursuits instead.
Then next the Persians I wrote, in praise
of the noblest deed that the world can show,
And each man longed for the victor's wreath,
to fight and to vanquish his country's foe.
DIONYSUS
I was pleased, I own, when I heard their moan
for old Darius, their great king, dead;
When they smote together their hands, like this,
and "Evir alake" the Chorus said.
AESCHYLUS
Aye, such are the poet's appropriate works:
and just consider how all along
From the very first they have wrought you good,
the noble bards, the masters of song.
First, Orpheus taught you religious rites,
and from bloody murder to stay your hands:
Musaeus healing and oracle lore;
and Hesiod all the culture of lands,
The time to gather, the time to plough.
And gat not Homer his glory divine
By singing of valour, and honour, and right,
and the sheen of the battle-extended line,
The ranging of troops and the arming of men?
DIONYSUS
O ay, but he didn't teach that, I opine,
To Pantacles; when he was leading the show
I couldn't imagine what he was at,
He had fastened his helm on the top of his head,
he was trying to fasten his plume upon that.
AESCHYLUS
But others, many and brave, he taught,
of whom was Lamachus, hero true;
And thence my spirit the impress took,
and many a lion-heart chief I drew,
Patrocluses, Teucers, illustrious names;
for I fain the citizen-folk would spur
To stretch themselves to their measure and height,
whenever the trumpet of war they hear.
But Phaedras and Stheneboeas? No!
no harlotry business deformed my plays.
And none can say that ever I drew
a love-sick woman in all my days.
EURIPIDES
For you no lot or portion had got
in Queen Aphrodite.
AESCHYLUS
Thank Heaven for that.
But ever on you and yours, my friend,
the mighty goddess mightily sat;
Yourself she cast to the ground at last.
DIONYSUS
O ay, that uncommonly pat.
You showed how cuckolds are made, and lo,
you were struck yourself by the very same fate.
EURIPIDES
But say, you cross-grained censor of mine,
how my Stheneboeas could harm the state.
AESCHYLUS
Full many a noble dame, the wife
of a noble citizen, hemlock took,
And died, unable the shame and sin
of your Bellerophon-scenes to brook.
EURIPIDES
Was then, I wonder, the tale I told
of Phaedra's passionate love untrue?
AESCHYLUS
Not so: but tales of incestuous vice
the sacred poet should hide from view,
Nor ever exhibit and blazon forth
on the public stage to the public ken.
For boys a teacher at school is found,
but we, the poets, are teachers of men.
We are hound things honest and pure to speak.
EURIPIDES
And to speak great Lycabettuses, pray,
And massive blocks of Parnassian rocks,
is that things honest and pure to say?
In human fashion we ought to speak.
AESCHYLUS
Alas, poor witling, and can't you see
That for mighty thoughts and heroic aims,
the words themselves must appropriate be?
And grander belike on the ear should strike
the speech of heroes and godlike powers,
Since even the robes that invest their limbs
are statelier, grander robes than ours.
Such was my plan: but when you began,
you spoilt and degraded it all.
AESCHYLUS
Your kings in tatters and rags you dressed,
and brought them on, a beggarly show,
To move, forsooth, our pity and ruth.
EURIPIDES
And what was the harm, I should like to know.
AESCHYLUS
No more will a wealthy citizen now
equip for the state a galley of war.
He wraps his limbs in tatters and rags,
and whines he is "poor, too poor by far."
DIONYSUS
But under his rags he is wearing a vest,
as woolly and soft as a man could wish.
Let him gull the state, and he's off to the mart;
an eager, extravagant buyer of fish.
AESCHYLUS
Moreover to prate, to harangue, to debate,
is now the ambition of all in the state.
Each exercise-ground is in consequence found
deserted and empty: to evil repute
Your lessons have brought our youngsters, and taught
our sailors to challenge, discuss, and refute
The orders they get from their captains and yet,
when I was alive, I protest that the knaves
Knew nothing at all, save for rations to call,
and to sing "Rhyppapae" as they pulled
through the waves.
DIONYSUS
And bedad to let fly from their sterns in the eye
of the fellow who tugged at the undermost oar,
And a jolly young messmate with filth to besmirch,
and to land for a filching adventure ashore;
But now they harangue, and dispute, and won't row
And idly and aimlessly float to and fro.
AESCHYLUS
Of what ills is lie not the creator and cause?
Consider the scandalous scenes that he draws,
His bawds, and his panders, his women who give
Give birth in the sacredest shrine,
Whilst others with brothers are wedded and bedded,
And others opine
That "not to be living" is truly "to live."
And therefore our city is swarming to-day
With clerks and with demagogue-monkeys, who play
Their jackanape tricks at all times, in all places,
Deluding the people of Athens; but none
Has training enough in athletics to run
With the torch in his hand at the races.
DIONYSUS
By the Powers, you are right! At the Panathenaea
I laughed till I felt like a potsherd to see
Pale, paunchy young gentleman pounding along,
With his head butting forward, the last of the throng,
In the direst of straits; and behold at the gates,
The Ceramites flapped him, and smacked him, and slapped him,
In the ribs, and the loin, and the flank, and the groin,
And still, as they spanked him, he puffed and he panted,
Till at one mighty cuff, he discharged such a puff
That he blew out his torch and levanted.
CHORUS
Dread the battle, and stout the combat,
mighty and manifold looms the war.
Hard to decide is the fight they're waging,
One like a stormy tempest raging,
One alert in the rally and skirmish,
clever to parry and foin and spar.
Nay but don't be content to sit
Always in one position only:
many the fields for your keen-edged wit.
On then, wrangle in every way,
Argue, battle, be flayed and flay,
Old and new from your stores display,
Yea, and strive with venturesome daring
something subtle and neat to say.
Fear ye this, that to-day's spectators
lack the grace of artistic lore,
Lack the knowledge they need for taking
All the points ye will soon be making?
Fear it not: the alarm is groundless:
that, be sure, is the case no more.
All have fought the campaign ere this:
Each a book of the words is holding;
never a single point they'll miss.
Bright their natures, and now, I ween,
Newly whetted, and sharp, and keen.
Dread not any defect of wit,
Battle away without misgiving,
sure that the audience, at least, are fit.
EURIPIDES
Well then I'll turn me to your prologues now,
Beginning first to test the first beginning
Of this fine poet's plays. Why he's obscure
Even in the enunciation of the facts.
DIONYSUS
Which of them will you test?
EURIPIDES
Many: but first
Give us that famous one from the Oresteia.
DIONYSUS
St! Silence all! Now, Aeschylus, begin.
AESCHYLUS
"Grave Hermes, witnessing a father's power,
Be thou my saviour and mine aid to-day,
For here I come and hither I return."
DIONYSUS
Any fault there?
EURIPIDES
A dozen faults and more.
DIONYSUS
Eh! why the lines are only three in all.
EURIPIDES
But every one contains a score of faults.
DIONYSUS
Now Aeschylus, keep silent; if you don't
You won't get off with three iambic lines.
AESCHYLUS
Silent for him!
DIONYSUS
If my advice you'll take.
EURIPIDES
Why, at first starting here's a fault skyhigh.
AESCHYLUS (to DIONYSUS)
You see your folly?
DIONYSUS
Have your way; I care not.
AESCHYLUS (to EURIPIDES)
What is my fault?
EURIPIDES
Begin the lines again.
AESCHYLUS
"Grave Hermes, witnessing a father's power-"
EURIPIDES
And this beside his murdered father's grave
Orestes speaks?
AESCHYLUS
I say not otherwise.
EURIPIDES
Then does he mean that when his father fell
By craft and violence at a woman's hand,
The god of craft was witnessing the deed?
AESCHYLUS
It was not he: it was the Helper Hermes
He called the grave: and this he showed by adding
It was his sire's prerogative he held.
EURIPIDES
Why this is worse than all. If from his father
He held this office grave, why then-
DIONYSUS
He was
A graveyard rifler on his father's side.
AESCHYLUS
Bacchus, the wine you drink is stale and fusty.
DIONYSUS
Give him another: (to EURIPIDES) you, look out for faults.
AESCHYLUS
"Be thou my saviour and mine aid to-day,
For here I come, and hither I return."
EURIPIDES
The same thing twice says clever Aeschylus.
DIONYSUS
How twice?
EURIPIDES
Why, just consider: I'll explain.
"I come, says he; and "I return," says he:
It's the same thing, to "come" and to "return."
DIONYSUS
Aye, just as if you said, "Good fellow, tend me
A kneading trough: likewise, a trough to knead in."
AESCHYLUS
It is not so, you everlasting talker,
They're not the same, the words are right enough.
DIONYSUS
How so? inform me how you use the words.
AESCHYLUS
A man, not banished from his home, may "come"
To any land, with no especial chance.
A home-bound exile both "returns" and "comes."
DIONYSUS
O good, by Apollo!
What do you say, Euripides, to that?
EURIPIDES
I say Orestes never did "return."
He came in secret: nobody recalled him.
DIONYSUS
O good, by Hermes I
(Aside) I've not the least suspicion what he means.
EURIPIDES
Repeat another line.
DIONYSUS
Ay, Aeschylus,
Repeat one instantly: you, mark what's wrong.
AESCHYLUS
"Now on this funeral mound I call my rather
To hear, to hearken.
EURIPIDES
There he is again.
To "hear," to "hearken"; the same thing, exactly.
DIONYSUS
Aye, but he's speaking to the dead, you knave,
Who cannot hear us though we call them thrice.
AESCHYLUS
And how do you make your prologues?
EURIPIDES
You shall hear;
And if you find one single thing said twice,
Or any useless padding, spit upon me.
DIONYSUS
Well, fire away: I'm all agog to hear
Your very accurate and faultless prologues.
EURIPIDES
"A happy man was Oedipus at first-
AESCHYLUS
Not so, by Zeus; a most unhappy man.
Who, not yet born nor yet conceived, Apollo
Foretold would be his father's murderer.
How could he be a happy man at first?
EURIPIDES
"Then he became the wretchedest of men."
AESCHYLUS
Not so, by Zeus; he never ceased to be.
No sooner born, than they exposed the babe,
(And that in winter), in an earthen crock,
Lest he should grow a man, and slay his father.
Then with both ankles pierced and swoln, he limped
Away to Polybus: still young, he married
An ancient crone, and her his mother too.
Then scratched out both his eyes.
DIONYSUS
Happy indeed
Had he been Erasinides's colleague!
EURIPIDES
Nonsense; I say my prologues are firstrate.
AESCHYLUS
Nay then, by Zeus, no longer line by line
I'll maul your phrases: but with heaven to aid
I'll smash your prologues with a bottle of oil.
EURIPIDES
You mine with a bottle of oil?
AESCHYLUS
With only one.
You frame your prologues so that each and all
Fit in with a "bottle of oil," or "coverlet-skin,"
Or "reticule-bag." I'll prove it here, and now.
EURIPIDES
You'll prove it? You?
AESCHYLUS
I will.
DIONYSUS
Well then, begin.
EURIPIDES
"Aegyptus, sailing with his fifty sons,
As ancient legends mostly tell the tale,
Touching at Argos"
AESCHYLUS
Lost his bottle of oil.
EURIPIDES
Hang it, what's that? Confound that bottle of oil!
Give him another: let him try again.
EURIPIDES
"Bacchus, who, clad in fawnskins, leaps and bounds
torch and thyrsus in the choral dance along Parnassus"
AESCHYLUS
Lost his bottle of oil.
DIONYSUS
Ah me, we are stricken-with that bottle again!
Pooh, pooh, that's nothing. I've a prologue
He'll never tack his bottle of oil to this:
"No man is blest in every single thing.
One is of noble birth, but lacking means.
Another, baseborn,"
AESCHYLUS
Lost his bottle of oil.
DIONYSUS
Euripides!
EURIPIDES
Well?
DIONYSUS
Lower your sails, my boy;
This bottle of is going to blow a gale.
EURIPIDES
O, by Demeter, I care one bit;
Now from his hands I'll strike that bottle of oil.
DIONYSUS
Go on then, go: but ware the bottle of oil.
EURIPIDES
"Once Cadmus, quitting the Sidonian town, Agenor's offspring"
AESCHYLUS
Lost his bottle of oil.
DIONYSUS
O pray, my man, buy off that bottle of oil,
Or else he'll smash our prologues all to bits.
EURIPIDES
I buy of him?
DIONYSUS
If my advice you'll take.
EURIPIDES
No, no, I've many a prologue yet to say,
To which he can't tack on his bottle of oil.
"Pelops, the son of Tantalus, while driving
His mares to Pisa"
AESCHYLUS
Lost his bottle of oil.
DIONYSUS
There! he tacked on the bottle of oil again.
O for heaven's sake, pay him its price, dear boy;
You'll get it for an obol, spick and span.
EURIPIDES
Not yet, by Zeus; I've plenty of prologues left.
"Oeneus once reaping"
AESCHYLUS
Lost his bottle of oil.
EURIPIDES
Pray let me finish one entire line first.
"Oeneus once reaping an abundant harvest,
Offering the firstfruits"
AESCHYLUS
Lost his bottle of oil.
DIONYSUS
What, in the act of offering? Fie! Who stole it?
EURIPIDES
O don't keep bothering! Let him try with
"Zeus, as by Truth's own voice the tale is told,"
DIONYSUS
No, he'll cut in with "Lost his bottle of oil" bottle
Those bottles of oil on all your prologues seem
To gather and grow, like styes upon the eye.
Turn to his melodies now for goodness' sake.
EURIPIDES
O I can easily show that he's a poor
Melody-maker; makes all alike.
CHORUS
What, O what will be done!
Strange to think that he dare
Blame the bard who has won,
More than all in our days,
Fame and praise for his lays,
Lays so many and fair.
Much I marvel to hear
What the charge he will bring
'Gainst our tragedy king;
Yea for himself do fear.
EURIPIDES
Wonderful lays! O yes, you'll see directly.
I'll cut down all his metrical strains to one.
DIONYSUS
And I, I'll take some pebbles, and keep count.

A slight pause, during which the music of a flute is heard. The
music continues to the end of line [EURIPIDES-Hush! the bee...] as
an accompaniment to the recitative.

EURIPIDES
"Lord of Phthia, Achilles, why hearing the
voice of the hero-dividing
Hah! smiting! approachest thou not to the rescue?
We, by the lake who abide, are adoring our ancestor Hermes.
Hah! smiting! approachest thou not to the rescue?"
DIONYSUS
O Aeschylus, twice art thou smitten I
EURIPIDES
"Hearken to me, great king; yea, hearken
Atreides, thou noblest of the Achaeans.
Hah! smiting! approachest thou not to the rescue?
DIONYSUS
Thrice, Aeschylus, thrice art thou smitten!
EURIPIDES
"Hush! the bee-wardens are here: they will
quickly the Temple of Artemis open.
Hah! smiting! approachest thou not to the rescue?
I will expound (for I know it) the omen the
chieftains encountered.
Hah! smiting! approachest thou not to the rescue?"
DIONYSUS
O Zeus and King, the terrible lot of smittings!
I'll to the bath: I'm very sure my kidneys
Are quite inflamed and swoln with all these smitings.
EURIPIDES
Wait till you've heard another batch of lays
Culled from his lyre-accompanied melodies.
DIONYSUS
Go on then, go: but no more smitings, please.
EURIPIDES
"How the twin-throned powers of Achaea,
the lords of the mighty Hellenes.
O phlattothrattophlattothrat!
Sendeth the Sphinx, the unchancy, the chieftainness bloodhound.
O phlattothrattophlattothratt
launcheth fierce with brand and hand the avengers
the terrible eagle.
O phlattothrattophlattothrat!
So for the swift-winged hounds of the air he provided a booty.
O phlattothrattophlattothrat!
The throng down-bearing on Aias.
O phlattothrattophlattotbrat!"
DIONYSUS
Whence comes that phlattothrat?
From Marathon, or
Where picked you up these cable-twister's strains?
AESCHYLUS
From noblest source for noblest ends brought them,
Unwilling in the Muses' holy field
The self-same flowers as Phrynichus to cull.
But he from all things rotten draws his lays,
From Carian flutings, catches of Meletus,
Dance-music, dirges. You shall hear directly.
Bring me the lyre. Yet wherefore need a lyre
For songs like these? Where's she that bangs and jangles
Her castanets? Euripides's Muse,
Present yourself: fit goddess for fit verse.
DIONYSUS
The Muse herself can't be a wanton? No!
AESCHYLUS
Halycons, who by the ever-rippling
Waves of the sea are babbling,
Dewing your plumes with the drops that fall
From wings in the salt spray dabbling.
Spiders, ever with twir-r-r-r-r-rling fingers
Weaving the warp and the woof,
Little, brittle, network, fretwork,
Under the coigns of the roof.
The minstrel shuttle's care.
Where in the front of the dark-prowed ships
Yarely the flute-loving dolphin skips.
Races here and oracles there.
And the joy of the young vines smiling,
And the tendril of grapes, care-beguiling.
O embrace me, my child, O embrace me.
(To DIONYSUS) You see this foot?
DIONYSUS
I do.
AESCHYLUS
And this?
DIONYSUS
And that one too.
AESCHYLUS (to EURIPIDES)
You, such stuff who compile,
Dare my songs to upbraid;
You, whose songs in the style
Of Cyrene's embraces are made.
So much for them: but still I'd like to show
The way in which your monodies are framed
"O darkly-light mysterious Night,
What may this Vision mean,
Sent from the world unseen
With baleful omens rife;
A thing of lifeless life,
A child of sable night,
A ghastly curdlinisight,
In black funereal veils,
With murder, murder in its eyes,
And great enormous nails?
Light ye the lanterns, my maidens,
and dipping your jugs in the stream,
Draw me the dew of the water,
and heat it to boiling and steam;
So will I wash me away the ill effects of my dream.
God of the sea!
My dream's come true.
Ho, lodgers, ho,
This portent view.
Glyce has vanished, carrying off my cock,
My cock that crew!
O Mania, help! O Oreads of the rock
Pursue! pursue!
For I, poor girl, was working within,
Holding my distaff heavy and full,
Twir-r-r-r-r-rling my hand as the threads I spin,
Weaving an excellent bobbin of wool;
Thinking 'To-morrow I'll go to the fair,
In the dusk of the morn, and be selling it there.'
But he to the blue up flew, up flew,
on the lightliest tips of his wings outspread;
To me he bequeathed but woe, but woe,
And tears, sad tears, from my eyes o'erflow,
Which I, the bereaved, must shed, must shed.
O children of Ida, sons of Crete,
Grasping your bows to the rescue come;
Twinkle about on your restless feet,
Stand in a circle around her home.
O Artemis, thou maid divine,
Dictynna, huntress, fair to see,
O bring that keen-nosed pack of thine,
And hunt through all the house with me.
O Hecate, with flameful brands,
O Zeus's daughter, arm thine hands,
Those swiftliest hands, both right and left;
Thy rays on Glyce's cottage throw
That I serenely there may go,
And search by moonlight for the theft."
DIONYSUS
Enough of both your odes.
AESCHYLUS
Enough for me.
Now would I bring the fellow to the scales.
That, that alone, shall test our poetry now,
And prove whose words are weightiest, his or mine.
DIONYSUS
Then both come hither, since I needs must weigh
The art poetic like a pound of cheese.
Here a large balance is brought out and placed
upon the stage.
CHORUS
O the labour these wits go through I
O the wild, extravagant, new,
Wonderful things they are going to do!
Who but they would ever have thought of it?
Why, if a man had happened to meet me
Out in the street, and intelligence brought of it,
I should have thought he was trying to cheat me;
Thought that his story was false and deceiving.
That were a tale I could never believe in.
DIONYSUS
Each of you stand beside his scale.
AESCHYLUS and EURIPIDES
We're here.
DIONYSUS
And grasp it firmly whilst ye speak your lines,
Each holds his own scale steady while he speaks
his line into it.
And don't let go until I cry "Cuckoo."
AESCHYLUS and EURIPIDES
Ready!
DIONYSUS
Now speak your lines into the scale.
EURIPIDES
"O that the Argo had not winged her way-"
AESCHYLUS
"River Spercheius, cattle-grazing haunts-"
DIONYSUS
Cuckoo! let go. O look, by far the lowest
His scale sinks down.
EURIPIDES
Why, how came that about?
DIONYSUS
He threw a river in, like some wool-seller
Wetting his wool, to make it weigh the more.
But threw in a light and winged word.
EURIPIDES
Come, let him match another verse with mine.
DIONYSUS
Each to his scale.
AESCHYLUS and EURIPIDES
We're ready.
DIONYSUS
Speak your lines.
EURIPIDES
"Persuasion's only shrine is eloquent speech."
AESCHYLUS
"Death loves not gifts, alone amongst the gods."
DIONYSUS
Let go, let go. Down goes his scale again.
He threw in Death, the heaviest ill of all.
EURIPIDES
And I Persuasion, the most lovely word.
DIONYSUS
A vain and empty sound, devoid of sense.
Think of some heavier-weighted line of yours,
To drag your scale down: something strong and big.
EURIPIDES
Where have I got one? Where? Let's see.
DIONYSUS
I'll tell you.
"Achilles threw two singles and a four."
Come, speak your lines: this is your last set-to.
EURIPIDES
"In his right hand he grasped an iron-clamped mace."
AESCHYLUS
"Chariot on chariot, corpse on corpse was hurled."
DIONYSUS
There now! again he has done you.
EURIPIDES
Done me? How?
DIONYSUS
He threw two chariots and two corpses in;
Five-score Egyptians could not lift that weight.
AESCHYLUS
No more of "line for line"; let him-himself,
His children, wife, Cephisophon-get in,
With all his books collected in his arms,
Two lines of mine shall overweigh the lot.
DIONYSUS
Both are my friends; I can't decide between them:
I don't desire to be at odds with either:
One is so clever, one delights me so.
PLUTO (coming forward)
Then you'll effect nothing
for which you came?
DIONYSUS
And how, if I decide?
PLUTO
Then take the winner;
So will your journey not be made in vain.
DIONYSUS
Heaven bless your Highness! Listen, I came down
After a poet.
EURIPIDES
To what end?
The city, saved, may keep her choral games.
Now then, whichever of you two shall best
Advise the city, he shall come with me.
And first of Alcibiades, let each
Say what he thinks; the city travails sore.
DIONYSUS
What does she think herself about him?
She loves, and hates, and longs to have him back.
But give me your advice about the man.
EURIPIDES
I loathe a townsman who is slow to aid,
And swift to hurt, his town: who ways and means
Finds for himself, but finds not for the state.
DIONYSUS
Poseidon, but that's smart! (to AESCHYLUS)
And what say you?
AESCHYLUS
'Twere best to rear no lion in the state:
But having reared, 'tis best to humour him.
DIONYSUS
By Zeus the Saviour, still I can't decide.
One is so clever, and so clear the other.
But once again. Let each in turn declare
What plan of safety for the state ye've got.
EURIPIDES
[First with Cinesias wing Cleocritus,
Then zephyrs waft them o'er the watery plain.
DIONYSUS
A funny sight, I own: but where's the sense?
EURIPIDES
If, when the fleets engage, they holding cruets
Should rain down vinegar in the foemen's eyes,]
I know, and I can tell you.
DIONYSUS
Tell away.
EURIPIDES
When things, mistrusted now, shall trusted be,
And trusted things, mistrusted.
DIONYSUS
How! I don't
Quite comprehend. Be clear, and not so clever.
EURIPIDES
If we mistrust those citizens of ours
Whom now we trust, and those employ whom now
We don't employ, the city will be saved.
If on our present tack we fail, we surely
Shall find salvation in the opposite course.
DIONYSUS
Good, O Palamedes! Good, you genius you.
Is this your cleverness or Cephisophon's?
EURIPIDES
This is my own: the cruet-plan was his.
DIONYSUS (to AESCHYLUS)
Now, you.
AESCHYLUS
But tell me whom the city uses.
The good and useful?
DIONYSUS
What are you dreaming of?
She hates and loathes them.
AESCHYLUS
Does she love the bad?
DIONYSUS
Not love them, no: she uses them perforce.
AESCHYLUS
How can one save a city such as this,
Whom neither frieze nor woollen tunic suits?
DIONYSUS
O, if to earth you rise, find out some way.
AESCHYLUS
There will I speak: I cannot answer here.
DIONYSUS
Nay, nay; send up your guerdon from below.
AESCHYLUS
When they shall count the enemy's soil their
And theirs the enemy's: when they know that ships
Are their true wealth, their so-called wealth delusion.
DIONYSUS
Aye, but the justices suck that down, you know.
PLUTO
Now then, decide.
DIONYSUS
I will; and thus I'll do it.
I'll choose the man in whom my soul delights.
EURIPIDES
O, recollect the gods by whom you swore
You'd take me home again; and choose your friends.
DIONYSUS
'Twas my tongue swore; my choice is-
Aeschylus.
EURIPIDES
Hah! what have you done?
DIONYSUS
Done? Given the victor's prize
To Aeschylus; why not?
EURIPIDES
And do you dare
Look in my face, after that shameful deed?
DIONYSUS
What's shameful, if the audience think not
so? Have you no heart? Wretch, would you leave me dead?
DIONYSUS
Who knows if death be life, and life be death,
And breath be mutton broth, and sleep a sheepskin?
PLUTO
Now, Dionysus, come ye in,
DIONYSUS
What for?
PLUTO
And sup before ye go.
DIONYSUS
A bright idea.
I'faith, I'm nowise indisposed for that.

Exeunt AESCHYLUS, EURIPIDES, PLUTO, and DIONYSUS.

CHORUS
Blest the man who possesses
Keen intelligent mind.
This full often we find.
He, the bard of renown,
Now to earth reascends,
Goes, a joy to his town,
Goes, a joy to his friends,
Just because he possesses
Keen intelligent mind.
Right it is and befitting,
Not, by Socrates sitting,
Idle talk to pursue,
Stripping tragedy-art of
All things noble and true.
Surely the mind to school
Fine-drawn quibbles to seek,
Fine-set phrases to speak,
Is but the part of a fool

Re-enter PLUTO and AESCHYLUS.

PLUTO
Farewell then Aeschylus, great and wise,
Go, save our state by the maxims rare
Of thy noble thought; and the fools chastise,
For many a fool dwells there.
And this (handing him a rope) to Cleophon give, my friend,
And this to the revenue-raising crew,
Nichomachus, Myrmex, next I send,
And this to Archenomus too.
And bid them all that without delay,
To my realm of the dead they hasten away.
For if they loiter above, I swear
I'll come myself and arrest them there.
And branded and fettered the slaves shall
With the vilest rascal in all the town,
Adeimantus, son of Leucolophus, down,
Down, down to the darkness below.
AESCHYLUS
I take the mission. This chair of mine
Meanwhile to Sophocles here commit,
(For I count him next in our craft divine,)
Till I come once more by thy side to sit.
But as for that rascally scoundrel there,
That low buffoon, that worker of ill,
O let him not sit in my vacant chair,
Not even against his will.
PLUTO (to the CHORUS)
Escort him up with your mystic throngs,
While the holy torches quiver and blaze.
Escort him up with his own sweet gongs,
And his noble festival lays.
CHORUS
First, as the poet triumphant
is passing away to the light,
Grant him success on his journey,
ye powers that are ruling below.
Grant that he find for the city
good counsels to guide her aright;
So we at last shall be freed
from the anguish, the fear, and the woe,
Freed from the onsets of war.
Let Cleophon now and his band
Battle, if battle they must,
far away in their own fatherland.
THE END
.
 

Powered by Plone

This site conforms to the following standards: