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SERVANT OF STREPSIADES
DISCIPLES OF SOCRATES
PASIAS, a Money-lender
AMYNIAS, another Money-lender
CHORUS OF CLOUDS
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
DISCIPLE That's himself.
STREPSIADES Who's himself?
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
SOCRATES (POMPOUSLY) I am traversing the air and contemplating the
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
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,
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
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
STREPSIADES No, indeed; I thought the Clouds were only fog, dew and
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
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
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
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 speech) 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
SOCRATES For trough you should say her as you would for Soctrate.
SOCRATES In this manner you make it truly female.
STREPSIADES That's it! Her for trough and her for Cleonymus.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
UNJUST DISCOURSE Don't worry, I shall return him to you an accomplished
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
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?
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
PHIDIPPIDES Then so much the worse for those who have deposited!
for it's not possible for one day to be two.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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Translation of "The Deeds of the Divine Augustus" by Augustus is
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