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BDELYCLEON, his Son
SOSIAS, Slave of Philocleon
XANTHIAS, Slave of Philocleon
A BAKER'S WIFE
CHORUS OF WASPS
In the background is the house of PHILOCLEON, surrounded by a huge
net. Two slaves are on guard, one of them asleep. On the roof is
SOSIAS (waking XANTHIAS up) Why, Xanthias! what are you doing,
XANTHIAS I am teaching myself how to rest; I have been awake and
on watch the whole night.
SOSIAS So you want to earn trouble for your ribs, eh? Don't you know
what sort of animal we are guarding here?
XANTHIAS Aye indeed! but I want to put my cares to sleep for a while.
(He falls asleep again.)
SOSIAS Beware what you do. I too feel soft sleep spreading over my
XANTHIAS Are you crazy, like a Corybant?
SOSIAS No! It's Bacchus who lulls me off.
XANTHIAS Then you serve the same god as myself. just now a heavy
slumber settled on my eyelids like a hostile Mede; I nodded and, faith!
I had a wondrous dream.
SOSIAS Indeed! and so had I. A dream such as I never had before.
But first tell me yours.
XANTHIAS I saw an eagle, a gigantic bird, descend upon the market-place;
it seized a brazen buckler with its talons and bore it away into the
highest heavens; then I saw it was Cleonymus had thrown it away.
SOSIAS This Cleonymus is a riddle worth propounding among guests.
How can one and the same animal have cast away his buckler both on
land, in the sky and at sea?
XANTHIAS Alas! what ill does such a dream portend for me?
SOSIAS Rest undisturbed! Please the gods, no evil will befall you.
XANTHIAS Nevertheless, it's a fatal omen when a man throws away his
weapons. But what was your dream? Let me hear.
SOSIAS Oh! it is a dream of high import. It has reference to the
hull of the State; to nothing less.
XANTHIAS Tell it to me quickly; show me its very keel.
SOSIAS In my first slumber I thought I saw sheep, wearing cloaks
and carrying staves, met in assembly on the Pnyx; a rapacious whale
was haranguing them and screaming like a pig that is being grilled.
XANTHIAS Faugh! faugh!
SOSIAS What's the matter?
XANTHIAS Enough, enough, spare me. Your dream stinks vilely of old
SOSIAS Then this scoundrelly whale seized a balance and set to weighing
XANTHIAS Alas! it's our poor Athenian people, whom this accursed
beast wishes to cut up and despoil of their fat.
SOSIAS Seated on the ground close to it, I saw Theorus, who had the
head of crow. Then Alcibiades said to me in his lisping way, "Do you
thee? Theoruth hath a crow'th head."
XANTHIAS Ah! that's very well lisped indeed!
SOSIAS Isn't this mighty strange? Theorus turning into a crow!
XANTHIAS No, it is glorious.
XANTHIAS Why? He was a man and now he has suddenly become a crow;
does it not foretoken that he will take his flight from here and go
to the crows?
SOSIAS Interpreting dreams so aptly certainly is worth two obols.
XANTHIAS (turning to the audience) Come, I must explain the matter
to the spectators. But first a few words of preamble: expect nothing
very high-flown from us, nor any jests stolen from Megara; we have
no slaves, who throw baskets of nuts to the spectators, nor any Heracles
to be robbed of his dinner, nor does Euripides get loaded with contumely;
and despite the happy chance that gave Cleon his fame we shall not
go out of our way to belabour him again, Our little subject is not
wanting in sense; it is well within your capacity and at the same
time cleverer than many vulgar comedies.-We have a master of great
renown, who is now sleeping up there on the other story. He has bidden
us keep guard over his father, whom he has locked in, so. that he
may not go out. This father has a curious complaint; not one of you
could hit upon or guess it, if I did not tell you.-Well then, try!
I hear Amynias, the son of Pronapus, over there, saying, "He is addicted
to gambling." He's wrong! He is imputing his own malady to others.
Yet love is indeed the principal part of his disease. Ah! here Sosias
is telling Dercylus, "He loves drinking." Wrong again! the love of
wine is a good man's failing. "Well then," says Nicostratus of the
Scambonian deme, "he either loves sacrifices or else strangers." God
no! he is not fond of strangers, Nicostratus, for he who says "Philoxenus"
means a pederast, It's mere waste of time, you will not find it out.
If you want to know it, keep silence! I will tell your our master's
complaint; of all men, it is he who is fondest of the Heliaea. Thus,
to be judging is his hobby, and he groans if he is not sitting on
the first seat. He does not close an eye at night, and if he dozes
off for an instant his mind flies instantly to the clepsydra. He is
so accustomed to hold the balloting pebble, that he awakes with his
three fingers pinched together as if he were offering incense to the
new moon. If he sees scribbled on some doorway, "How charming is Demos,
the son of Pyrilampes!" he will write beneath it, "How charming is
Cemos!" His cock crowed one evening; said he, "He has had money from
the accused to awaken me too late. As soon as he rises from supper
he bawls for his shoes and away he rushes down there before dawn to
sleep beforehand, glued fast to the column like an oyster. He is a
merciless judge, never failing to draw the convicting line and return
home with his nails full of wax like a bumble-bee. Fearing he might
run short of pebbles he keeps enough at home to cover a sea-beach,
so that he may have the means of recording his sentence. Such is his
madness, and all advice is useless; he only judges the more each day.
So we keep him under lock and key, to prevent his going out; for his
son is broken-hearted over this mania. At first he tried him with
gentleness, wanted to persuade him to wear the cloak no longer, to
go out no more; unable to convince him, he had him bathed and purified
according to the ritual without any greater success, and then handed
him over to the Corybantes; but the old man escaped them, and carrying
off the kettledrum, rushed right into the midst of the Heliasts. As
Cybele could do nothing with her rites, his son took him to Aegina
and forcibly made him lie one night in the temple of Asclepius, the
God of Healing, but before daylight there he was to be seen at the
gate of the tribunal. Since then we let him go out no more, but he
escaped us by the drains or by the skylight, so we stuffed up every
opening with old rags and made all secure; then he drove short sticks
into the wall and sprang from rung to rung like a magpie. Now we have
stretched-nets all around the court and we keep watch and ward. The
old man's name is Philocleon, it's the best name he could have, and
the son is called Edelycleon, for he is a man very fit to cure an
insolent fellow of his boasting.
BDELYCLEON (from the roof) Xanthias! Sosias! Are you asleep?
SOSIAS What is the matter?
XANTHIAS Why, Bdelycleon is getting up.
BDELYCLEON Will neither of you come here? My father has got into
the stove-chamber and is ferreting about like a rat in his hole. Take
care he does not escape through the bath drain. You there, put all
your weight against the door.
XANTHIAS Yes, master.
BDELYCLEON By Zeus! what is that noise in the chimney? Hullo! who
PHILOCLEON (poking his head out of the chimney) I am the smoke going
BDELYCLEON Smoke? smoke of what wood?
PHILOCLEON Of fig-wood.
BDELYCLEON Ah! that's the most acrid of all. But you shall not get
out. Where is the chimney cover? Come down again. Now, up with another
cross-bar. Now look out for some fresh dodge. But am I not the most
unfortunate of men? Henceforward I shall only be called the son of
XANTHIAS He is pushing the door.
BDELYCLEON Throw your weight upon it, come, put heart into the work.
I will come and help you. Watch both lock and bolt. Take care he does
not gnaw through the peg.
PHILOCLEON (from within) What are you doing, you wretches? Let me
go out; it is imperative that I go and judge, or Dracontides will
XANTHIAS Would you mind that?
PHILOCLEON Once at Delphi, the god, whom I was consulting, foretold,
that if an accused man escaped me, I should die of consumption.
XANTHIAS Apollo the Saviour, what a prophecy!
PHILOCLEON Ah! I beseech you, if you do not want my death, let me
XANTHIAS No, Philocleon, no never, by Posidon!
PHILOCLEON Well then, I shall gnaw through the net with my teeth.
XANTHIAS But you have no teeth.
PHILOCLEON Oh! you rascal, how can I kill you? How? Give me a sword,
quick, or a conviction tablet.
BDELYCLEON Our friend is planning some great crime.
PHILOCLEON No, by Zeus! but I want to go and sell my ass and its
panniers, for it's the first of the month.
BDELYCLEON Could I not sell it just as well?
PHILOCLEON Not as well as I could.
BDELYCLEON No, but better.
PHILOCLEON Bring out the ass anyway.
XANTHIAS What a clever excuse he has found now! What cunning to get
you to let him go out!
BDELYCLEON Yes, but I have not swallowed the hook; I scented the
trick. I will go in and fetch the ass, so that the old man may not
point his weapons that way again. (He goes in, returning immediately
with the ass.) Stupid old ass, are you weeping because you are going
to be sold? Come, go a bit quicker. Why, what are you moaning and
groaning for? You might be carrying another Odysseus.
XANTHIAS Why, certainly, so he is! someone has crept beneath his
BDELYCLEON Who, who? Let's see. Why it's he! What does this mean?
Who are you? Come, speak!
PHILOCLEON I am Noman.
BDELYCLEON Noman? Of what country?
PHILOCLEON Of Ithaca, son of Apodrasippides.
BDELYCLEON Ha! Mister Noman, you will not laugh presently. Pull him
out quick. Ah! the wretch, where has he crept to? Does he not resemble
a she-ass to the life?
PHILOCLEON If you do not leave me in peace, I shall sue.
BDELYCLEON And what will the suit be about?
PHILOCLEON The shade of an ass.
BDELYCLEON You are a poor man of very little wit, but thoroughly
PHILOCLEON A poor man! Ah! by Zeus! you know not now what I am worth;
but you will know when you disembowel the old Heliast's money-bag.
BDELYCLEON Come, get back indoors, both you and your ass.
PHILOCLEON Oh! my brethren of the tribunal! oh! Cleon! to the rescue!
BDELYCLEON Go and bawl in there under lock and key. And you there,
pile plenty of stones against the door, thrust the bolt home into
the staple, and to keep this beam in its place roll that great mortar
against it. Quick's the word.
XANTHIAS Oh! my god! whence did this brick fall on me?
BDELYCLEON Perhaps a rat loosened it.
XANTHIAS A rat? it's surely our gutter-judge, who has crept beneath
the tiles of the roof.
BDELYCLEON Ah! woe to us! there he is, he has turned into a sparrow;
he will be flying off. Where is the net? where? Shoo! shoo! get back!
Ah! by Zeus! I would rather have to guard Scione than such a father.
XANTHIAS And now that we have driven him in thoroughly and he can
no longer escape without our knowledge, can we not have a few winks
of sleep, no matter how few?
BDELYCLEON Why, wretch! the other jurymen will be here almost directly
to summon my father!
XANTHIAS Why, it's scarcely dawn yet!
BDELYCLEON Ah, they must have risen late to-day. Generally it is
the middle of the night when they come to fetch him. They arrive here,
carrying lanterns in their hands and singing the charming old verses
of Phrynichus' Sidonian Women; it's their way of calling him.
XANTHIAS Well, if need be, we will chase them off with stones.
BDELYCLEON What! you dare to speak so? Why, this class of old men,
if irritated, becomes as terrible as a swarm of wasps. They carry
below their loins the sharpest of stings, with which to prick their
foes; they shout and leap and their stings burn like so many sparks.
XANTHIAS Have no fear! If I can find stones to throw into this nest
of jurymen-wasps, I shall soon have them cleared off. (Enter the
CHORUS, composed of old men costumed as wasps.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS March on, advance boldly and bravely! Comias,
your feet are dragging; once you were as tough as a dog-skin strap
and now even Charinades walks better than you. Ha! Strymodorus of
Conthyle, you best of mates, where is Euergides and where is Chabes
of Phlya? Ha, ha, bravo! there you are, the last of the lads with
whom we mounted guard together at Byzantium. Do you remember how,
one night, prowling round, we noiselessly stole the kneading-trough
of a baker's wife; we split it in two and cooked our green-stuff with
it.-But let us hasten, for the case of Laches comes on to-day, and
they all say he has embezzled a pot of money. Hence Cleon, our protector,
advised us yesterday to come early and with a three days' stock of
fiery rage so as to chastise him for his crimes. Let us hurry, comrades,
before it is light; come, let us search every nook with our lanterns
to see whether those who wish us ill have not set us some trap.
BOY Father, father, watch out for the mud.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Pick up a blade of straw and trim your lamp.
BOY No. I can trim it quite well with my finger.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Why do you pull out the wick, you little dolt?
Oil is scarce, and it's not you who suffer when it has to be paid
for. (Strikes him.)
BOY If you teach us again with your fists, we shall put out the lamps
and go home; then you will have no light and will squatter about in
the mud like ducks in the dark.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS I know how to punish offenders bigger than you.
But I think I am treading in some mud. Oh! it's certain it will rain
in torrents for four days at least; look at the snuff in our lamps;
that is always a sign of heavy rain; but the rain and the north wind
will be good for the crops that are still standing. Why, what can
have happened to our mate, who lives here? Why does he not come to
join our party? There used to be no need to haul him in our wake,
for he would march at our head singing the verses of Phrynichus; he
was a lover of singing. Should we not, friends, make a halt here and
sing to call him out? The charm of my voice will fetch him out, if
he hears it.
CHORUS (singing) Why does the old man not show himself before the
door? Why does he not answer? Has he lost his shoes? has he stubbed
his toe in the dark and thus got a swollen ankle? Perhaps he has a
tumour in his groin. He was the hardest of us all; he alone never
allowed himself to be moved. If anyone tried to move him, he would
lower his head, saying, "You might just as well try to boil a stone."
But I bethink me, an accused man escaped us yesterday through his
false pretence that he loved Athens and had been the first to unfold
the Samian plot. Perhaps his acquittal has so distressed Philocleon
that he is abed with fever-he is quite capable of such a thing.-Friend,
arise, do not thus vex your heart, but forget your wrath. To-day we
have to judge a man made wealthy by-treason, one of those who set
Thrace free; we have to prepare him a funeral urn....so march on,
my boy, get going. (Here a duet begins between the BOY and the CHORUS.)
BOY Father, would you give me something if I asked for it?
CHORUS Assuredly, my child, but tell me what nice thing do you want
me to buy you? A set of knuckle-bones, I suppose.
BOY No, father, I prefer figs; they are better.
CHORUS No, by Zeus! even if you were to hang yourself with vexation.
BOY Well then, I will lead you no farther.
CHORUS With my small pay, I am obliged to buy bread, wood, and stew;
and now you ask me for figs!
BOY But, father, if the Archon should not form a court to-day, how
are we to buy our dinner? Have you some good hope to offer us or only
"Helle's sacred waves"?
CHORUS Alas! alas! I have not a notion how we shall dine.
BOY Oh! my poor mother! why did you let me see this day?
CHORUS So that you might give me troubles to feed on.
BOY Little wallet, you seem like to be a mere useless ornament!
BOY AND CHORUS It is our destiny to groan.
PHILOCLEON (appearing at an upper window; singing) My friends, I
have long been pining away while listening to you from my window,
but I absolutely know not what to do. I am detained here, because
I have long wanted to go with you to the law-court and do all the
harm I can. Oh! Zeus! cause the peals of thy thunder to roll, change
me quickly into smoke or make me into a Proxenides, a tissue of falsehoods,
like the son of Sellus. Oh, King of Heaven! hesitate not to grant
me this favour, pity my misfortune or else may thy dazzling lightning
instantly reduce me to ashes; then carry me hence, and may thy breath
hurl me into some strong, hot marinade or turn me into one of the
stones on which the votes are counted.
CHORUS (singing) Who is it detains you and shuts you in? Speak,
for you are talking to friends.
PHILOCLEON (singing) My son. But no bawling, he is there in front
asleep; lower your voice.
CHORUS (singing) But, poor fellow, what is his aim? what is his
PHILOCLEON (singing) My friends, he will not have me judge nor do
anyone any ill, but he wants me to stay at home and enjoy myself,
and I will not. And does this wretch, this Demologocleon dare to say
such odious things, just because you tell the truth about our navy?
He would not have dared, had he not been a conspirator.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS But meanwhile, you must devise some new dodge,
so that you can come down here without his knowledge.
PHILOCLEON But what? Try to find some way. For myself, I am ready
for anything, so much do I burn to run along the tiers of the tribunal
with my voting-pebble in my hand.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS There is surely some hole through which you
could manage to squeeze from within, and escape dressed in rags, like
the crafty Odysseus.
PHILOCLEON Everything is sealed fast; not so much as a gnat could
get through. Think of some other plan; there is no possible hole of
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Do you recall how, when you were with the army
at the taking of Naxos, you descended so readily from the top of the
wall by means of the spits you had stolen?
PHILOCLEON I remember that well enough, but what connection is there
with present circumstances? I was young, clever at thieving, I had
all my strength, none watched over me, and I could run off without
fear. But to-day men-at-arms are placed at every outlet to watch me,
and two of them are lying in wait for me at this very door armed with
spits, just as folks lie in wait for a cat that has stolen a piece
CHORUS (singing) Come, discover some way as quick as possible. Here
is the dawn come, my dear little friend.
PHILOCLEON (singing) The best way is to gnaw through the net. Oh!
goddess who watchest over the nets, forgive me for making a hole in
CHORUS (singing) It's acting like a man eager for his safety. Get
your jaws to work.
PHILOCLEON (singing) There! it's gnawed through! But no shouting!
let Bdelycleon notice nothing!
CHORUS (singing) Have no fear, have no fear! if he breathes a syllable,
it will be to bruise his own knuckles; he will have to fight to defend
his own head. We shall teach him not to insult the mysteries of the
LEADER OF THE CHORUS But fasten a rope to the window, tie it around
your body and let yourself down to the ground, with your heart bursting
with the fury of Diopithes.
PHILOCLEON But if these notice it and want to fish me up and drag
me back into the house, what will you do? Tell me that.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS We shall call up the full strength of our oak-tough
courage to your aid. That is what we will do.
PHILOCLEON I trust myself to you and risk the danger. If misfortune
overtakes me, take away my body, bathe it with your tears and bury
it beneath the bar of the tribunal.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Nothing will happen to you, rest assured. Come,
friend, have courage and let yourself slide down while you invoke
your country's gods.
PHILOCLEON Oh! mighty Lycus! noble hero and my neighbour, thou, like
myself, takest pleasure in the tears and the groans of the accused.
If thou art come to live near the tribunal, 'tis with the express
design of hearing them incessantly; thou alone of all the heroes hast
wished to remain among those who weep. Have pity on me and save him,
who lives close to thee; I swear I will never make water, never, nor
ever let a fart, against the railing of thy statue. (He slides down
as quietly as possible; nevertheless BDELYCLEON wakes up.)
BDELYCLEON (to XANTHIAS) Ho, there! ho! get up!
XANTHIAS (waking up) What's the matter?
BDELYCLEON I thought I heard talking close to me. Is the old man
at it again, escaping through some loophole?
XANTHIAS No, by Zeus! no, but he is letting himself down by a rope.
BDELYCLEON Ha, rascal! what are you doing there? You shall not descend.
(To XANTHIAS) Mount quick to the other window, strike him with the
boughs that hang over the entrance; perhaps he will turn back when
he feels himself being thrashed.
PHILOCLEON (to the audience) To the rescue! all you, who are going
to have lawsuits this year-Smicythion, Tisiades, Chremon and Pheredipnus.
It's now or never, before they force me to return, that you must help.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Why do we delay to let loose that fury, that
is so terrible, when our nests are attacked?
CHORUS (singing) I feel my angry sting is stiffening, that sharp
sting, with which we punish our enemies. Come, children, cast your
cloaks to the winds, run, shout, tell Cleon what is happening, that
he may march against this foe of our city, who deserves death, since
he proposes to prevent the trial of lawsuits. (The Boys run off,
taking the CHORUS' mantles with them.)
BDELYCLEON (rushing out of the house with the two slaves and seizing
his father) Friends, listen to the truth, instead of bawling.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS By Zeus! we will shout to heaven.
BDELYCLEON And I shall not let him go.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Why, this is intolerable, 'tis manifest tyranny.
CHORUS (singing) Oh! citizens, oh! Theorus, the enemy of the gods!
and all you flatterers, who rule us! come to our aid.
XANTHIAS By Heracles! they have stings. Do you see them, master?
BDELYCLEON It was with these weapons that they killed Philippus the
son of Gorgias when he was put on trial.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS And you too shall die. Turn yourselves this
way, all, with your stings out for attack and throw yourselves upon
him in good and serried order, and swelled up with wrath and rage.
Let him learn to know the sort of foes he has dared to irritate.
XANTHIAS The fight will be fast and furious, by great Zeus! I tremble
at the sight of their stings.
CHORUS (singing) Let this man go, unless you want to envy the tortoise
his hard shell.
PHILOCLEON Come, my dear companions, wasps with relentless hearts,
fly against him, animated with your fury. Sting him in the arse, eyes,
BDELYCLEON (opening the door and trying to shove his struggling father
in) Midas, Phryx, Masyntias, here! Come and help. Seize this man and
hand him over to no one, otherwise you shall starve to death in chains.
Fear nothing, I have often heard the crackling of fig-leaves in the
LEADER OF THE CHORUS If you won't let him go, I shall bury this sting
in your body.
PHILOCLEON Oh, Cecrops, mighty hero with the tail of a dragon! Seest
thou how these barbarians ill-use me-me, who have many a time made
them weep a full bushel of tears?
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Is not old age filled with cruel ills? What
violence these two slaves offer to their old master! they have forgotten
all bygones, the fur-coats and the jackets and the caps he bought
for them; in winter he watched that their feet should not get frozen.
And only see them now; there is no gentleness in their look nor any
recollection of the slippers of other days.
PHILOCLEON (to XANTHIAS) Will you let me go, you accursed animal?
Don't you remember the day when I surprised you stealing the grapes;
I tied you to an olive-tree and I cut open your bottom with such vigorous
lashes that folks thought you had been raped. Get away, you are ungrateful.
But let go of me, and you too, before my son comes up.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS You shall repay us for all this, and that soon.
Tremble at our ferocious glance; you shall taste our just anger.
BDELYCLEON Strike! strike! Xanthias! Drive these wasps away from
XANTHIAS That's just what I am doing.
BDELYCLEON Blind them with smoke too!
XANTHIAS AND SOSIAS You will not go? The plague seize you! Will you
not clear off?
BDELYCLEON Hit them with your stick Xanthias, and you Sosias, to
smoke them out better, throw Aeschines, the son of Sellartius, on
XANTHIAS (as the CHORUS retires from the unequal conquest) There,
we were bound to drive you off sooner or later!
BDELYCLEON Eh! by Zeus! you would not have put them to flight so
easily if they had fed on the verses of Philocles.
CHORUS (singing) It is clear to all the poor that tyranny has attacked
us sorely. Proud emulator of Amynias, you, who only take pleasure
in doing ill, see how you are preventing us from obeying the laws
of the city; you do not even seek a pretext or any plausible excuse,
but claim to rule alone.
BDELYCLEON Hold! A truce to all blows and brawling! Had we not better
confer together and come to some understanding?
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Confer with you, the people's foe! with you,
CHORUS (singing) ....and accomplice of Brasidas, you with your woollen-fringed
coat and your long beard?
BDELYCLEON Ah! it would be better to separate altogether from my
father than to steer my boat daily through such stormy seas!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Oh! you have but reached the parsley and the
rue, to use the common saying. What you are suffering is nothing!
but welcome the hour when the advocate shall adduce all these same
arguments against you and shall summon your accomplices to give witness.
BDELYCLEON In the name of the gods! withdraw or we shall fight you
the whole day long.
CHORUS (singing) No, not as long as I retain an atom of breath.
Ha! your desire is to tyrannize over us!
BDELYCLEON Everything is now tyranny with us, no matter what is concerned,
whether it be large or small. Tyranny! I have not heard the word mentioned
once in fifty years, and now it is more common than salt-fish, the
word is even current on the market. If you are buying gurnards and
don't want anchovies, the huckster next door, who is selling the latter,
at once exclaims, "That is a man whose kitchen savours of tyranny!"
If you ask for onions to season your fish, the green-stuff woman winks
one eye and asks, "Ha, you ask for onions! are you seeking to tyrannize,
or do you think that Athens must pay you your seasonings as a tribute?"
XANTHIAS Yesterday I went to see a whore about noon and told her
to get on top; she flew into a rage, pretending I wanted to restore
the tyranny of Hippias.
BDELYCLEON That's the talk that pleases the people! As for myself,
I want my father to lead a joyous life like Morychus instead of going
away before dawn basely to calumniate and condemn; and for this I
am accused of conspiracy and tyrannical practice!
PHILOCLEON And quite right too, by Zeus! The most exquisite dishes
do not make up to me for the life of which you deprive me. I scorn
your red mullet and your eels, and would far rather eat a nice little
lawsuitlet cooked in the pot.
BDELYCLEON That's because you have got used to seeking your pleasure
in it; but if you will agree to keep silence and hear me, I think
I could persuade you that you deceive yourself altogether.
PHILOCLEON I deceive myself, when I am judging?
BDELYCLEON You do not see that you are the laughing-stock of these
men, whom you are ready to worship. You are their slave and do not
PHILOCLEON I a slave, I, who lord it over all?
BDELYCLEON Not at all, you think you are ruling when you are only
obeying. Tell me, father, what do you get out of the tribute paid
by so many Greek towns.
PHILOCLEON Much, and I appoint my colleagues jurymen.
BDELYCLEON And I also. (To the slaves) Release him.
PHILOCLEON And bring me a sword; If I am worsted in this debate,
I shall fall on the blade.
BDELYCLEON Tell me whether you will accept the verdict of the Court.
PHILOCLEON May I never drink my Heliast's pay in honour of the Good
Genius, it if I do not.
CHORUS (singing) Now it is necessary for you, who are of our school,
to say something novel, that you may not seem...
BDELYCLEON (interrupting) And I must note down everything he says,
so as to remember it; someone bring me a tablet, quick.
CHORUS (singing) ....to side with this youth in his opinions. You
see how serious the question has become; if he should prevail, which
the gods forfend, it will be all over for us.
PHILOCLEON But what will you say of it, if he should triumph in the
CHORUS (singing) That old men are no longer good for anything; we
shall be perpetually laughed at in the streets, shall be called thallophores,
LEADER OF THE CHORUS You are to be the champion of all our rights
and sovereignty. Come, take courage! Bring into action all the resources
of your wit.
PHILOCLEON At the outset I will prove to you that there exists no
king whose might is greater than ours. Is there a pleasure, a blessing
comparable with that of a juryman? Is there a being who lives more
in the midst of delights, who is more feared, aged though he be? From
the moment I leave my bed, men of power, the most illustrious in the
city, await me at the bar of the tribunal; the moment I am seen from
the greatest distance, they come forward to offer me a gentle handy-that
has pilfered the public funds; they entreat me, bowing right low and
with a piteous voice, "Oh, father," they say, "pity me, I adjure you
by the profit you were able to make in the public service or in the
army, when dealing with the victuals." Why, the man who speaks thus
would not know of my existence, had I not let him off on some former
BDELYCLEON Let us note this first point, the supplicants.
PHILOCLEON These entreaties have appeased my wrath, and I enter-firmly
resolved to do nothing that I have promised. Nevertheless I listen
to the accused. Oh! what tricks to secure acquittal! Ah! there is
no form of flattery that is not addressed to the Heliast! Some groan
over their poverty and exaggerate it. Others tell us anecdotes or
some comic story from Aesop. Others, again, cut jokes; they fancy
I shall be appeased if I won If we are not even then won over, why,
then they drag forward their young children by the hand, both boys
and girls, who prostrate themselves and whine with one accord, and
then the father, trembling as if before a god, beseeches me not to
condemn him out of pity for them, "If you love the voice of the lamb,
have pity on my sons"; and because I am fond of little sows, I must
yield to his daughter's prayers. Then we relax the heat of our wrath
a little for him. Is not this great power indeed, which allows even
wealth to be disdained?
BDELYCLEON A second point to note, the disdain of wealth. And now
recall to me what are the advantages you enjoy, you, who pretend to
rule over Greece?
PHILOCLEON We are entrusted with the inspection of the young men,
and thus we have a right to examine their tools. If Oeagrus is accused,
he is not acquitted before he has recited a passage from 'Niobe' and
he chooses the finest. If a flute-player gains his case, he adjusts
his mouth-strap in return and plays us the final air while we are
leaving. A father on his death-bed names some husband for his daughter,
who is his sole heir; but we care little for his will or for the shell
so solemnly placed over the seal; we give the young maiden to him
who has best known how to secure our wavour. Name me another duty
that is so important and so irresponsible.
BDELYCLEON Aye, it's a fine privilege, and the only one on which
I can congratulate you; but surely to violate the will is to act badly
towards the heiress.
PHILOCLEON And if the Senate and the people have trouble in deciding
some important case, it is decreed to send the culprits before the
Heliasts; then Euathlus and the illustrious Colaconymus, who cast
away his shield, swear not to betray us and to fight for the people.
Did ever an orator carry the day with his opinion if he had not first
declared that the jury should be dismissed for the day as soon as
they had given their first verdict? We are the only ones whom Cleon,
the great bawler, does not badger. On the contrary, he protects and
caresses us; he keeps off the flies, which is what you have never
done for your father. Theorus, who is a man not less illustrious than
Euphemius, takes the sponge out of the pot and blacks our shoes. See
then what good things you deprive and despoil me of. Pray, is this
obeying or being a slave, as you pretended to be able to prove?
BDELYCLEON Talk away to your heart's content; you must come to a
stop at last and then you shall see that this grand power only resembles
an anus; no matter how much you wash it, you can never get it clean.
PHILOCLEON But I am forgetting the most pleasing thing of all. When
I return home with my pay, everyone runs to greet me because of my
money. First my daughter bathes me, anoints my feet, stoops to kiss
me and, while she is calling me "her dearest father," fishes out my
triobolus with her tongue; then my little wife comes to wheedle me
and brings a nice light cake; she sits beside me and entreats me in
a thousand ways, "Do take this now; do have some more." All this delights
me hugely, and I have no need to turn towards you or the steward to
know when it shall please him to serve my dinner, all the while cursing
and grumbling. But if he does not quickly knead my cake, I have something
which is my defence, my shield against all ills. If you do not pour
me out drink, I have brought this long-eared jar full of wine. How
it brays, when I bend back and bury its neck in my mouth! It farts
like a whole army, and how I laugh at your wine-skins. (With increasing
excitement) As to power, am I not equal to the king of the gods?
If our assembly is noisy, all say as they pass, "Great gods! the tribunal
is rolling out its thunder!" If I let loose the lightning, the richest,
aye, the noblest are half dead with terror and crap for fright. You
yourself are afraid of me, yea, by Demeter! you are afraid. But may
I die if you frighten me.
CHORUS (singing) Never have I heard speech so elegant or so sensible.
PHILOCLEON Ah! he thought he had only to turn me round his finger;
he should, however have known the vigour of my eloquence.
CHORUS (singing) He has said everything without omission. I felt
myself grow taller while I listened to him. Methought myself meting
out justice in the Islands of the Blest, so much was I taken with
the charm of his words.
BDELYCLEON How overjoyed they are! What extravagant delight! Ah!
ah! you are going to get a thrashing to-day.
CHORUS (singing) Come, plot everything you can to beat him; 'tis
not easy to soften me if you do no talk on my side.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS If you have nothing but nonsense to spout, it's
time to buy a good millstone, freshly cut withal, to crush my anger.
BDELYCLEON The cure of a disease, so inveterate and so widespread
in Athens, is a difficult task and of too great importance for the
scope of comedy. Nevertheless, my old father....
PHILOCLEON Cease to call me by that name, for, if you do not prove
me a slave and that quickly too, you must die by my hand, even if
I must be deprived of my share in the sacred feasts.
BDELYCLEON Listen to me, dear little father, unruffle that frowning
brow and reckon, you can do so without trouble, not with pebbles,
but on your fingers, what is the sum-total of the tribute paid by
the allied towns; besides this we have the direct imposts, a mass
of percentage dues, the fees of the courts of justice, the produce
from the mines, the markets, the harbours, tile public lands and the
confiscations. All these together amount to nearly two thousand talents.
Take from this sum the annual pay of the dicasts; they number six
thousand, and there have never been more in this town; so therefore
it is one hundred and fifty talents that come to you.
PHILOCLEON What! our pay is not even a tithe of the state revenue?
BDELYCLEON Why no, certainly not.
PHILOCLEON And where does the rest go then?
BDELYCLEON To those who say: "I shall never betray the interests
of the masses; I shall always fight for the people." And it is you,
father, who let yourself be caught with their fine talk, who give
them all power over yourself. They are the men who extort fifty talents
at a time by threat and intimidation from the allies. "Pay tribute
to me," they say, "or I shall loose the lightning on you-town and
destroy it." And you, you are content to gnaw the crumbs of your own
might. What do the allies do? They see that the Athenian mob lives
on the tribunal in niggard and miserable fashion, and they count you
for nothing, for not more than the vote of Connus; it is on those
wretches that they lavish everything, dishes of salt fish, wine, tapestries,
cheese, honey, chaplets, necklets, drinking-cups, all that yields
pleasure and health. And you, their master, to you as a reward for
all your toil both on land and sea, nothing is given, not even a clove
of garlic to eat with your little fish.
PHILOCLEON No, undoubtedly not; I have had to send and buy some from
Eucharides. But you told me I was a slave. Prove it then, for I am
dying with impatience.
BDELYCLEON Is it not the worst of all slaveries to see all these
wretches and their flatterers, whom they gorge with gold, at the head
of affairs? As for you, you are content with the three obols which
they give you and which you have so painfully earned in the galleys,
in battles and sieges. But what I stomach least is that you go to
sit on the tribunal by order. Some young fairy, the son of Chaereas,
to wit, enters your house wiggling his arse, foul with debauchery,
on his straddling legs and charges you to come and judge at daybreak,
and precisely to the minute. "He who presents himself after the opening
of the Court," says he, "will not get the triobolus." But he himself,
though he arrives late, will nevertheless get his drachma as a public
advocate. If an accused man makes him some present, he shares it with
a colleague and the pair agree to arrange the matter like two sawyers,
one of whom pulls and the other pushes. As for you, you have only
eyes for the public pay-clerk, and you see nothing.
PHILOCLEON Can it be I am treated thus? Oh! what is it you are saying?
You stir me to the bottom of my heart! I am all ears! I cannot express
what I feel.
BDELYCLEON Consider then; you might be rich, both you and all the
others; I know not why you let yourself be fooled by these folk who
call themselves the people's friends. A myriad of towns obey you,
from the Euxine to Sardis. What do you gain thereby? Nothing but this
miserable pay, and even that is like the oil with which the flock
of wool is impregnated and is doled to you drop by drop, just enough
to keep you from dying of hunger. They want you to be poor, and I
will tell you why. It is so that you may know only those who nourish
you, and so that, if it pleases them to loose you against one of their
foes, you shall leap upon him with fury. If they wished to assure
the well-being of the people, nothing would be easier for them. We
have now a thousand towns that pay us tribute; let them comand each
of these to feed twenty Athenians; then twenty thousand of our citizens
would be eating nothing but hare, would drink nothing but the purest
of milk, and always crowned with garlands, would be enjoying the delights
to which the great name of their country and the trophies of Marathon
give them the right; whereas to-day you are like the hired labourers
who gather the olives; you follow him who pays you.
PHILOCLEON Alas! my hand is benumbed; I can no longer draw my sword.
What has become of my strength?
BDELYCLEON When they are afraid, they promise to divide Euboea among
you and to give each fifty bushels of wheat, but what have they given
you? Nothing excepting, quite recently, five bushels of barley, and
even these you have only obtained with great difficulty, on proving
you were not aliens, and then choenix by choenix. (With increasing
excitement) That is why I always kept you shut in; I wanted you to
be fed by me and no longer at the beck of these blustering braggarts.
Even now I am ready to let you have all you want, provided you no
longer let yourself be suckled by the payclerk.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS (to BDELYCLEON) He was right who said, "Decide
nothing till you have heard both sides," for now it seems to me that
you are the one who gains the complete victory. My wrath is appeased
and I throw away my sticks. (To PHILOCLEON) But, you, our comrade
FIRST SEMI-CHORUS (taking this up in song) .... let yourself be
won over by his words; come, be not too obstinate or too perverse.
Would that I had a relative or kinsman to correct me thus! Clearly
some god is at hand and is now protecting you and loading you with
benefits. Accept them.
BDELYCLEON I will feed him, I will give him everything that is suitable
for an old man; oatmeal gruel, a cloak, soft furs, and a wench to
rub his tool and his loins. But he keeps silent and will not utter
a sound; that's a bad sign.
SECOND SEMI-CHORUS (singing) He has thought the thing over and has
recognized his folly; he is reproaching himself for not having followed
your advice always. But there he is, converted by your words, and
wiser now, so that he will no doubt alter his ways in the future and
always believe in none but you.
PHILOCLEON Alas! alas!
BDELYCLEON Now why this lamentation?
PHILOCLEON (in tragic style) A truce to your promises! What I love
is down there, down there I want to be, there, where the herald cries,
"Who has not yet voted? Let him rise!" I want to be the last of all
to leave the urn. Oh, my soul, my soul! where art thou? come! oh!
dark shadows, make way for me! By Heracles, may I reach the court
in time to convict Cleon of theft.
BDELYCLEON Come, father, in the name of the gods, believe me!
PHILOCLEON Believe you! Ask me anything, anything, except one.
BDELYCLEON What is it? Let us hear.
PHILOCLEON Not to judge any more! Before I consent, I shall have
appeared before Pluto.
BDELYCLEON Very well then, since you find so much pleasure in it,
go down there no more, but stay here and deal out justice to your
PHILOCLEON But what is there to judge? Are you mad?
BDELYCLEON Everything as in a tribunal. If a servant opens a door
secretly, you inflict upon him a simple fine; that's what you have
repeatedly done down there. Everything can be arranged to suit you.
If it is warm in the morning, you can judge in the sunlight; if it
is snowing, then seated at your fire; if it rains, you go indoors;
and if you don't rise till noon, there will be no Thesmothetes to
exclude you from the precincts.
PHILOCLEON The notion pleases me.
BDELYCLEON Moreover, if a pleader is long-winded, you will not be
hungering and chafing and seeking vengeance on the accused.
PHILOCLEON But could I judge as well with my mouth full?
BDELYCLEON Much better. Is it not said, that the dicasts, when deceived
by lying witnesses, have need to ruminate well in order to arrive
at the truth?
PHILOCLEON Well said, but you have not told me yet who will pay my
BDELYCLEON I will.
PHILOCLEON So much the better; in this way I shall be paid by myself.
Because that damned jester, Lysistratus, played me an infamous trick
the other day. He received a drachma for the two of us and went on
the fish-market to get it changed and then brought me back three mullet
scales. I took them for obols and crammed them into my mouth; but
the smell choked me and I quickly spat them out. So I dragged him
before the court.
BDELYCLEON And what did he say to that?
PHILOCLEON Well, he pretended I had the stomach of a cock. "You have
soon digested the money," he said with a laugh.
BDELYCLEON You see, that is yet another advantage.
PHILOCLEON And no small one either. Come, do as you will.
BDELYCLEON Wait! I will bring everything here. (He goes into the
PHILOCLEON (to himself) You see, the oracles are coming true; I
have heard it foretold, that one day the Athenians would dispense
justice in their own houses, that each citizen. would have himself
a little tribunal constructed in his porch similar to the altars of
Hecate, and that there would be such before every door.
BDELYCLEON (returning with slaves who are carrying various objects)
There, what do you think of that? I have brought you everything needful
and much more into the bargain. See, here is a thunder-mug in case
you have to pee; I shall hang it up beside you.
PHILOCLEON Good idea! Right useful at my age. You have found the
true alleviation of bladder troubles.
BDELYCLEON Here is a fire, and near to it are lentils, should you
want to have a bite to eat.
PHILOCLEON That's admirably arranged. In this way, even when feverish,
I shall nevertheless receive my pay; and besides, I could eat my lentils
without quitting my seat. But why this cock?
BDELYCLEON So that, should you doze during some pleading, he may
awaken you by crowing up there.
PHILOCLEON I want only for one thing more; all the rest is as good
as can be.
BDELYCLEON What is that?
PHILOCLEON If only they could bring me an image of the hero Lycus.
BDELYCLEON Here it is! Why, you might think it was the god himself!
PHILOCLEON Oh! hero, my master I how repulsive you are to look at
BDELYCLEON He looks just like Cleonymus.
PHILOCLEON That is why, hero though he be, he has no weapon.
BDELYCLEON The sooner you take your seat, the sooner I shall call
PHILOCLEON Call it, for I have been seated ever so long.
BDELYCLEON Let us see. What case shall we bring up first? Is there
a slave who has done something wrong? Ah! you Thracian there, you
burnt the stew-pot the other day.
PHILOCLEON Wait, wait! This is a fine state of affairs! You almost
made me judge without a bar, and that is the most sacred thing of
all for us.
BDELYCLEON There isn't any, by Zeus.
PHILOCLEON I'll run indoors and get one myself. (Exit)
BDELYCLEON What does it matter? Terrible thing, the force of habit.
XANTHIAS (coming out of the house) Damn that animal! How can anyone
keep such a dog?
BDELYCLEON Hullo! what's the matter?
XANTHIAS Oh, it's Labes, who has just rushed into the kitchen and
seized a whole Sicilian cheese and gobbled it up.
BDELYCLEON Good! this will be the first offence I shall make my father
try. (To XANTHIAS) Come along and lay your accusation. XANTHIAS
No, not I; the other dog vows he will be accuser, if the matter is
brought up for trial.
BDELYCLEON Well then, bring them both along.
XANTHIAS That's what we'll have to do. (He goes hack into the house.
A moment later PHILOCLEON comes out.)
BDELYCLEON What is this?
PHILOCLEON The pig-trough of the swine dedicated to Hestia.
BDELYCLEON Did you steal it from a shrine?
PHILOCLEON No, no, by addressing Hestia first, I might, thanks to
her, crush an adversary. But put an end to delay by calling up the
case. My verdict is already settled.
BDELYCLEON Wait! I still have to bring out the tablets and the scrolls.
(He goes into the house.)
PHILOCLEON Oh! I am boiling, I am dying with impatience at your delays.
I could have traced the sentence in the dust.
BDELYCLEON (coming out with tablets and scrolls) There you are.
PHILOCLEON Then call the case.
BDELYCLEON Right. Who is first on the docket?
PHILOCLEON My god! This is unbearable! I have forgotten the urns.
BDELYCLEON Now where are you going?
PHILOCLEON To look for the urns.
BDELYCLEON Don't bother, I have these pots.
PHILOCLEON Very well, then we have all we need, except the clepsydra.
BDELYCLEON (pointing to the thunder-mug) What is this if it is not
PHILOCLEON You know how to supply everything.
BDELYCLEON Let fire be brought quickly from the house with myrtle
boughs and incense, and let us invoke the gods before opening the
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Offer them libations and your vows and we will
thank them that a noble agreement has put an end to your bickerings
and strife. And first let there be a sacred silence.
CHORUS (singing) Oh! god of Delphi! oh! Phoebus Apollo! convert
into the greatest blessing for us all what is now happening before
this house, and cure us of our error, oh, Paean, our helper!
BDELYCLEON (solemnly) Oh, Powerful god, Apollo Aguieus, who watchest
at the door of my entrance hall, accept this fresh sacrifice; I offer
it that you may deign to soften my father's excessive severity; he
is as hard as iron, his heart is like sour wine; do thou pour into
it a little honey. Let him become gentle toward other men, let him
take more interest in the accused than in the accusers, may he allow
himself to be softened by entreaties; calm his acrid humour and deprive
his irritable mind of all sting.
CHORUS (singing) We unite our vows and chants to those of this new
magistrate. His words have won our favour and we are convinced that
he loves the people more than any of the young men of the present
day. (XANTHIAS brings in two persons costumed as dogs, but with masks
that suggest Laches and Cleon.)
BDELYCLEON If there be any judge near at hand, let him enter; once
the proceedings have opened, we shall admit him no more.
PHILOCLEON Who is the defendant?
BDELYCLEON This one.
PHILOCLEON (aside) He does not stand a chance.
BDELYCLEON Listen to the indictment. A dog of Cydathenaea doth hereby
charge Labes of Aexonia with having devoured a Sicilian cheese by
himself without accomplices. Penalty demanded, a collar of fig-tree
PHILOCLEON Nay, a dog's death, if convicted.
BDELYCLEON This is Labes, the defendant.
PHILOCLEON Oh! what a wretched brute! how entirely he looks the rogue!
He thinks to deceive me by keeping his jaws closed. Where is the plaintiff,
the dog of Cydathenaea?
DOG Bow wow! bow wow!
BDELYCLEON Here he is.
PHILOCLEON Why, he's another Labes, a great barker and a licker of
BDELYCLEON (as Herald) Silence! Keep your seats! (To the Cydathenaean
dog.) And you, up on your feet and accuse him.
PHILOCLEON Go on, and I will help myself and eat these lentils.
DOG Gentlemen of the jury, listen to this indictment I have drawn
up. He has committed the blackest of crimes, against both me and the
seamen. He sought refuge in a dark corner to glutton on a big Sicilian
cheese, with which he sated his hunger.
PHILOCLEON Why, the crime is clear; the filthy brute this very moment
belched forth a horrible odour of cheese right under my nose.
DOG And he refused to share with me. And yet can anyone style himself
your benefactor, when he does not cast a morsel to your poor dog?
PHILOCLEON He has not shared anything, not even with his comrade.
His madness is as hot as my lentils.
BDELYCLEON In the name of the gods, father! No hurried verdict without
hearing the other side!
PHILOCLEON But the evidence is plain; the fact speaks for itself.
DOG Then beware of acquitting the most selfish of canine gluttons,
who has devoured the whole cheese, rind and all, prowling round the
PHILOCLEON There is not even enough left for me to fill up the chinks
in my pitcher.
DOG Besides, you must punish him, because the same house cannot keep
two thieves. Let me not have barked in vain, else I shall never bark
PHILOCLEON Oh! the black deeds he has just denounced! What a shameless
thief! Say, cock, is not that your opinion too? Ha, ha! He thinks
as I do. Here, Thesmothetes! where are you? Hand me the thunder-mug.
BDELYCLEON Get it yourself. I go to call the witnesses; these are
a plate, a pestle, a cheese knife, a brazier, a stew-pot and other
half-burnt utensils. (To PHILOCLEON) But you have not finished?
you are piddling away still! Have done and be seated.
PHILOCLEON Ha, ha! I reckon I know somebody who will crap for fright
BDELYCLEON Will you never cease showing yourself hard and intractable,
and especially to the accused? You tear them to pieces tooth and nail.
(To LABES) Come forward and defend yourself. What means this silence?
PHILOCLEON No doubt he has nothing to say.
BDELYCLEON Not at all, I think he has got what happened once to Thucydides
in court; his jaws suddenly set fast. Get away! I will undertake your
defence.-Gentlemen of the jury, it is a difficult thing to speak for
a dog who has been calumniated, but nevertheless I will try. He is
a good dog, and he chases wolves finely.
PHILOCLEON He is a thief and a conspirator.
BDELYCLEON No, he is the best of all our dogs; he is capable of guarding
a whole flock.
PHILOCLEON And what good is that, if he eats the cheese?
BDELYCLEON What? he fights for you, he guards your door; he is an
excellent dog in every respect. Forgive him his larceny! he is wretchedly
ignorant, he cannot play the lyre.
PHILOCLEON I wish he did not know how to write either; then the rascal
would not have drawn up his pleadings.
BDELYCLEON Witnesses, I pray you, listen. Come forward, grating-knife,
and speak up; answer me clearly. You were paymaster at the time. Did
you grate out to the soldiers what was given you?-He says he did so.
PHILOCLEON But, by Zeus! he lies.
BDELYCLEON Oh! have patience. Take pity on the unfortunate. Labes
feeds only on fish-bones and fishes' heads and has not an instant
of peace. The other is good only to guard the house; he never moves
from here, but demands his share of all that is brought in and bites
those who refuse.
PHILOCLEON (aside) Oh! Heaven! have I fallen ill? I feel my anger
cooling! Woe to me! I am softening!
BDELYCLEON Have pity, father, pity, I adjure you; you would not have
him dead. Where are his puppies? (A group of children costumed as
puppies comes out.) Come, poor little beasties, yap, up on your haunches,
beg and whine!
PHILOCLEON Descend, descend, descend, descend!
BDELYCLEON I will descend, although that word, "descend," has too
often raised false hope. None the less, I will descend.
PHILOCLEON Plague seize it! Have I then done wrong to eat! What!
I, crying! Ah! I certainly should not be weeping, if I were not stuffed
BDELYCLEON Then he is acquitted?
PHILOCLEON It is difficult to tell.
BDELYCLEON Ah! my dear father, be good! be humane! Take this voting
pebble and rush with your eyes closed to that second urn and, father,
PHILOCLEON No, I know no more how to acquit than to play the lyre.
BDELYCLEON Come quickly, I will show you the way. (He takes his
father by the hand and leads him to the second urn.)
PHILOCLEON Is this the first urn?
PHILOCLEON (dropping in his vote) Then I have voted.
BDELYCLEON (aside) I have fooled him and he has acquitted in spite
of himself. (To PHILOCLEON) Come, I will turn out the urns.
PHILOCLEON What is the result?
BDELYCLEON We shall see. (He examines both urns.) Labes, you stand
acquitted. (PHILOCLEON faints) Eh! father, what's the matter, what
is it? (To slaves) Water! water! (To PHILOCLEON) Pull yourself together,
PHILOCLEON (weakly) Tell me! Is he really acquitted?
BDELYCLEON Yes, certainly.
PHILOCLEON (falling back) Then it's all over with me!
BDELYCLEON Courage, dear father, don't let this afflict you so terribly.
PHILOCLEON (dolefully) And so I have charged my conscience with
the acquittal of an accused being! What will become of me? Sacred
gods! forgive me. I did it despite myself; it is not in my character.
BDELYCLEON Do not vex yourself, father; I will feed you well, will
take you everywhere to eat and drink with me; you shall go to every
feast; henceforth your life shall be nothing but pleasure, and Hyperbolus
shall no longer have you for a tool. But come, let us go in.
PHILOCLEON (resignedly) So be it; if you will, let us go in. (They
all go into the house.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Go where it pleases you and may your happiness
be great. (The CHORUS turns and faces the audience.) You meanwhile,
oh! countless myriads, listen to the sound counsels I am going to
give you and take care they are not lost upon you. That would be the
fate of vulgar spectators, not that of such an audience. Hence, people,
lend me your ear, if you love frank speaking.
The poet has a reproach to make against his audience; he says you
have ill-treated him in return for the many services he has rendered
you. At first he kept himself in the background and lent help secretly
to other poets, and like the prophetic Genius, who hid himself in
the belly of Eurycles, slipped within the spirit of another and whispered
to him many a comic hit. Later he ran the risks of the theatre on
his own account, with his face uncovered, and dared to guide his Muse
unaided. Though overladen with success and honours more than any of
your poets, indeed despite all his glory, he does not yet believe
he has attained his goal; his heart is not swollen with pride and
he does not seek to seduce the young folk in the wrestling school.
If any lover runs up to him to complain because he is furious at seeing
the object of his passion derided on the stage, he takes no heed of
such reproaches, for he is inspired only with honest motives and his
Muse is no pander. From the very outset of his dramatic career he
has disdained to assail those who were men, but with a courage worthy
of Heracles himself he attacked the most formidable monsters, and
at the beginning went straight for that beast with the sharp teeth,
with the terrible eyes that flashed lambent fire like those of Cynna,
surrounded by a hundred lewd flatterers who spittle-licked him to
his heart's content; he had a voice like a roaring torrent, the stench
of a seal, the unwashed balls of a Lamia, and the arse of a camel.
Our poet did not tremble at the sight of this horrible monster, nor
did he dream of gaining him over; and again this very day he is fighting
for your good. Last year besides, he attacked those pale, shivering
and feverish beings who strangled your fathers in the dark, throttled
your grandfathers, and who, lying in the beds of the most inoffensive,
piled up against them lawsuits, summonses and witnesses to such an
extent, that many of them flew in terror to the Polemarch for refuge.
Such is the champion you have found to purify your country of all
its evil, and last year you betrayed him, when he sowed the most novel
ideas, which, however, did not strike root, because you did not understand
their value; notwithstanding this, he swears by Bacchus, the while
offering him libations, that none ever heard better comic verses.
It is a disgrace to you not to have caught their drift at once; as
for the poet, he is none the less appreciated by the enlightened judges.
He shivered his oars in rushing boldly forward to board his foe.
(With increasing excitement) But in future, my dear fellow-citizens,
love and honour more those of your poets who seek to imagine and express
some new thought. Make their ideas your own, keep them in your caskets
like sweet-scented fruit. If you do, your clothing will emit an odour
of wisdom the whole year through.
FIRST SEMI-CHORUS (singing) Ah, once long ago we were brave in the
dance, brave too in battle, and on this account alone the most courageous
of men! That was formerly, was formerly; all that is gone now and
these hairs of ours are whiter than the swan. But from what is left
we must rekindle a youthful ardour; really we prefer our old age to
the curly hair and the fine clothes and the effeminacy of many of
LEADER OF THE FIRST SEMI-CHORUS Should any among you spectators look
upon me with wonder, because of this wasp waist, or not know the meaning
of this sting, I will soon dispel his ignorance. We, who wear this
appendage, are the true Attic men, who alone are noble and native
to the soil, the bravest of all people. We are the ones who, weapon
in hand, did so much for the country, when the barbarian shed torrents
of fire and smoke over our city in his relentless desire to seize
our nests by force. At once we ran up, armed with lance and buckler,
and, drunk with the bitter wine of anger, we gave them battle, man
standing to man and rage distorting our lips. A hail of arrows hid
the sky. However, by the help of the gods, we drove off the foe to,
wards evening. Before the battle an owl had flown over our army. Then
we pursued them with our lance-point in their loins as one hunts the
tunny-fish; they fled and we stung them in the jaw and in the eyes,
so that even now the barbarians tell each other that there is nothing
in the world more to be feared than the Attic wasp.
SECOND SEMI-CHORUS (singing) Oh! at that time I was terrible, I
feared nothing; forth on my galleys I went in search of my foe and
subjected him. Then we never thought of rounding fine phrases, we
never dreamt of calumny; it was who should prove the strongest rower.
And thus we took many a town from the Medes, and 'tis to us that Athens
owes the tributes that our young men thieve to-day.
LEADER OF THE SECOND SEMI-CHORUS Look well at us, and you will see
that we have all the character and habits of the wasp. Firstly, if
roused, no beings are more irascible, more relentless than we are.
In all other things, too, we act like wasps. We collect in swarms,
in a kind of nests, and some go judging with the Archon, some with
the Eleven, others at the Odeon; there are yet others, who hardly
move at all, like the grubs in the cells, but remain glued to the
walls, and bent double to the ground. We also pay full attention to
the discovery of all sorts of means of existing and sting the first
who comes, so as to live at his expense. Finally, we have among us
drones, who have no sting and who, without giving themselves the least
trouble, seize on our revenues as they flow past them and devour them.
It's this that grieves us most of all, to see men who have never served
or held either lance or oar in defence of their country, enriching
themselves at our expense without ever raising a blister on their
hands. In short, I give it as my deliberate opinion that in future
every citizen not possessed of a sting shall not receive the triobolus.
(PRILOCLEON comes out of the house, followed by his son and a slave.
The CHORUS turns to face them.)
PHILOCLEON As long as I live, I will never give up this cloak; it's
the one I wore in that battle when Boreas delivered us from such fierce
BDELYCLEON You do not know what is good for you.
PHILOCLEON Ah! I do not know how to use fine clothing! The other
day, when cramming myself with fried fish, I dropped so many grease
spots that I had to pay three obols to the cleaner.
BDELYCLEON At least have a try, since you have once for all handed
the care for your well-being over to me.
PHILOCLEON Very well then! what must I do?
BDELYCLEON Take off your cloak, and put on this tunic in its stead.
PHILOCLEON Was it worth while to beget and bring up children, so
that this one should now wish to choke me?
BDELYCLEON Come, take this tunic and put it on without so much talk.
PHILOCLEON Great gods! what sort of a cursed garment is this?
BDELYCLEON Some call it a pelisse, others a Persian cloak.
PHILOCLEON Ah! I thought it was a wraprascal like those made at Thymaetis.
BDELYCLEON No wonder. It's only at Sardis you could have seen them,
and you have never been there.
PHILOCLEON Of course not, but it seems to me exactly like the mantle
BDELYCLEON Not at all; I tell you they are woven at Ecbatana.
PHILOCLEON What! are there woollen ox-guts then at Ecbatana?
BDELYCLEON Whatever are you talking about? These are woven by the
barbarians at great cost. I am certain this pelisse has consumed more
than a talent of wool.
PHILOCLEON It should be called wool-waster then instead of pelisse.
BDELYCLEON Come, father, just hold still for a moment and put it
PHILOCLEON Oh! horrors! what a waft of heat the hussy sends up my
BDELYCLEON Will you have done with this fooling?
PHILOCLEON No by Zeus.
BDELYCLEON But good sir....
PHILOCLEON If need be, I prefer you should put me in the oven.
BDELYCLEON Come, I will put it round you. There!
PHILOCLEON At all events, bring out a crook.
BDELYCLEON Why, whatever for?
PHILOCLEON To drag me out of it before I am quite melted.
BDELYCLEON Now take off those wretched clogs and put on these nice
PHILOCLEON I put on odious slippers made by our foes! Never
BDELYCLEON Come! put your foot in and push hard. Quick!
PHILOCLEON You're doing wrong here. You want me to put my foot on
BDELYCLEON Now the other.
PHILOCLEON Ah! no, not that foot; one of its toes holds the Laconians
BDELYCLEON Positively you must.
PHILOCLEON Alas! alas! Then I shall have no chilblains in my old
BDELYCLEON Now, hurry up and get them on; and now imitate the easy
effeminate gait of the rich. See, like this. (He takes a few steps.)
PHILOCLEON (trying to do likewise) There!.... Look at my get-up
and tell me which rich man I most resemble in my walk.
BDELYCLEON Why, you look like a garlic plaster on a boil.
PHILOCLEON Ah! I am longing to swagger and sway my arse about.
BDELYCLEON Now, will you know how to talk gravely with well-informed
men of good class?
BDELYCLEON What will you say to them?
PHILOCLEON Oh, lots of things. First of all I shall say, that Lamia,
seeing herself caught, let flee a fart; then, that Cardopion and his
BDELYCLEON Come, no fabulous tales, pray! talk of realities, of domestic
facts, as is usually done.
PHILOCLEON Ah! I know something that is indeed most domestic. Once
upon a time there was a rat and a cat....
BDELYCLEON "Oh, you ignorant fool," as Theagenes said to the dung-gatherer
in a rage. Are you going to talk of cats and rats among high-class
PHILOCLEON Then what should I talk about?
BDELYCLEON Tell some dignified story. Relate how you were sent on
a solemn mission with Androcles and Clisthenes.
PHILOCLEON On a mission! never in my life, except once to Paros,
a job which brought me in two obols a day.
BDELYCLEON At least say, that you have just seen Ephudion doing well
in the pancratium with Ascondas and, that despite his age and his
white hair, he is still robust in loin and arm and flank and that
his chest is a very breast-plate.
PHILOCLEON Stop! stop! what nonsense! Who ever contested at the pancratium
with a breast-plate on?
BDELYCLEON That is how well-behaved folk like to talk. But another
thing. When at wine, it would be fitting to relate some good story
of your youthful days. What is your most brilliant feat?
PHILOCLEON My best feat? Ah! when I stole Ergasion's vine-props.
BDELYCLEON You and your vine-props! you'll be the death of me! Tell
of one of your boar-hunts or of when you coursed the hare. Talk about
some torch-race you were in; tell of some deed of daring.
PHILOCLEON Ah! my most daring dee, was when, quite a young man still,
I prosecuted Phayllus, the runner, for defamation, and he was condemded
by majority of two votes.
BDELYCLEON Enough of that! Now recline there, and practise the bearing
that is fitting at table in society.
PHILOCLEON How must I recline? Tell me quick!
BDELYCLEON In an elegant style.
PHILOCLEON (lying on the ground) Like this?
BDELYCLEON Not at all.
PHILOCLEON How then?
BDELYCLEON Spread your knees on the tapestries and give your body
the most easy curves, like those taught in the gymnasium. Then praise
some bronze vase, survey the ceiling, admire the awning stretched
over the court. Water is poured over our hands; the tables are spread;
we sup and, after ablution, we now offer libations to the gods.
PHILOCLEON But, by Zeus! this supper is but a dream, it appears!
BDELYCLEON The flute-player has finished the prelude. The guests
are Theorus, Aeschines, Phanus, Cleon, Acestor; and beside this last,
I don't know who else. You are with them. Shall you know exactly how
to take up the songs that are started?
PHILOCLEON Quite well.
PHILOCLEON Better than any born mountaineer of Attica.
BDELYCLEON That we shall see. Suppose me to be Cleon. I am the first
to begin the song of Harmodius, and you take it up: "There never yet
was seen in Athens....
PHILOCLEON ....such a rogue or such a thief."
BDELYCLEON Why, you wretched man, it will be the end of you if you
sing that. He will vow your ruin, your destruction, to chase you out
of the country.
PHILOCLEON Well! then I shall answer his threats with another song:
"With your madness for supreme power, you will end by overthrowing
the city, which even now totters towards ruin."
BDELYCLEON And when Theorus, prone at Cleon's feet, takes his hand
and sings, "Like Admetus, love those who are brave," what reply will
you make him?
PHILOCLEON I shall sing, "I know not how to play the fox, nor call
myself the friend of both parties."
BDELYCLEON Then comes the turn of Aeschines, the son of Sellus, and
a well-trained and clever musician, who will sing, "Good things and
riches for Clitagora and me and eke for the Thessalians!"
PHILOCLEON "The two of us have squandered a great deal between us."
BDELYCLEON At this game you seem at home. But come, we will go and
dine with Philoctemon.-Slave! slave! place our dinner in a basket;
we are going out for a good long drinking bout.
PHILOCLEON By no means, it is too dangerous; for after drinking,
one breaks in doors, one comes to blows, one batters everything. Anon,
when the wine is slept off, one is forced to pay.
ELYCLEON Not if you are with decent people. Either they undertake
to appease the offended person or, better still, you say something
witty, you tell some comic story, perhaps one of those you have yourself
heard at table, either in Aesop's style or in that of Sybaris; everyone
laughs and the trouble is ended.
PHILOCLEON Faith! it's worth while learning many stories then, if
you are thus not punished for the ill you do. But come, no more delay!
(They go out.)
CHORUS (singing) More than once have I given proof of cunning and
never of stupidity, but how much more clever is Amynias, the son of
Sellus and of the race of forelock-wearers; him we saw one day coming
to dine with Leogaras, bringing as his share one apple and a pomegranate,
and bear in mind he was as hungry as Antiphon. He went on an embassy
to Pharsalus, and there he lived solely among the Thessalian mercenaries;
indeed, is he not the vilest of mercenaries himself?
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Oh! blessed, oh! fortunate Automenes, how enviable
is your fortune! You have three sons, the most industrious in the
world; one is the friend of all, a very able man, the first among
the lyre-players, the favourite of the Graces. The second is an actor,
and his talent is beyond all praise. As for Ariphrades, he is by far
the most gifted; his father would swear to me, that without any master
whatever and solely through the spontaneous effort of his happy nature,
he taught himself to exercise his tongue in the whorehouses, where
he spends the whole of his time.
Some have said that I and Cleon were reconciled. This is the truth
of the matter: Cleon was harassing me, persecuting and belabouring
me in every way; and, when I was being fleeced, the public laughed
at seeing me uttering such loud cries; not that they cared about me,
but simply curious to know whether, when trodden down by my enemy,
I would not hurl at him some taunt. Noticing this, I have played the
wheedler a bit; but now, look! the prop is deceiving the vine! (XANTHIAS
enters, weeping and wailing and rubbing his sides.)
XANTHIAS Oh! tortoises! happy to have so hard a skin! Oh! creatures
full of sense! what a happy thought to cover your bodies with this
shell, which shields it from blows! As for me, I can no longer move;
the stick has so belaboured my body.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Why, what's the matter, my child? for, old as
he may be, one has the right to call anyone a child who has let himself
XANTHIAS Alas! my master is really the worst of all plagues. He was
the most drunk of all the guests, and yet among them were Hippyllus,
Antiphon, Lycon, Lysistratus, Theophrastus and Phrynichus. But he
was hundred times more insolent than any. As soon as he had stuffed
himself with a host of good dishes, he began to leap and spring, to
laugh and to fart like a little ass well stuffed with barley. Then
he set to beating me with all his heart, shouting, "Slave! slave!"
Lysistratus, as soon as he saw him, let fly this comparison at him.
"Old fellow," said he, "you resemble one of the scum assuming the
airs of a rich man or a stupid ass that has broken loose from its
stable." "As for you," bawled the other at the top of his voice, "you
are like a grasshopper, whose cloak is worn to the thread, or like
Sthenelus after his clothes had been sold." All applauded excepting
Theophrastus, who made a grimace as behoved a well-bred man like him.
The old man called to him, "Hi! tell me then what you have to be proud
of? Not so much mouthing, you, who so well know how to play the buffoon
and to lick-spittle the rich!" In this way he insulted each in turn
with the grossest of jests, and he reeled off a thousand of the most
absurd and ridiculous speeches. At last, when he was thoroughly drunk,
he started towards here, striking everyone he met. Wait, here he comes
reeling along. I will be off for fear of his blows. (PHILOCLEON enters,
inebriated and hilarious, carrying a torch; his other hand is occupied
with a wholly nude flute-girl; he is followed by a group of angry
victims of his exuberance.)
PHILOCLEON (singing) Halt! and let everyone begone, or I shall do
an evil turn to some of those who insist on following me. Clear off,
rascals, or I shall roast you with this torch!
GUEST We shall all make you smart to-morrow for your youthful pranks.
We shall come in a body to summon you to justice.
PHILOCLEON (singing) Ho! ho! summon me? what old women's babble!
Know that I can no longer bear to hear even the name of suits. Ha!
ha! ha! this is what pleases me, "Down with the urns!" Get out of
here! Down with the dicasts! away with them, away with them! (Dropping
into speech; to the flute-girl) Mount up there, my little gilded
cock-chafer; take hold of this rope's end in your hand. Hold it tight,
but have a care; the rope's a bit old and worn. But even though it's
worn, it still has its virtues. Do you see how opportunely I got you
away from the solicitations of those fellators, who wanted you to
make love to them in their own odd way? You therefore owe me this
return to gratify me. But will you pay the debt? Oh! I know well you
will not even try; you will play with me, you will laugh heartily
at me as you have done at many another man. And yet, if you would
not be a naughty girl, I would redeem you, when my son is dead, and
you should be my concubine, my little one. At present I am not my
own master; I am very young and am watched very closely. My dear son
never lets me out of his sight; he's an unbearable creature, who would
quarter a thread and skin a flint; he is afraid I should get lost,
for I am his only father. But here he comes running towards us. But
be quick, don't stir, hold these torches. I am going to play him a
young man's trick, the same as he played me before I was initiated
into the mysteries.
BDELYCLEON Oh! oh! you debauched old dotard! you are amorous, it
seems, of pretty baggages; but, by Apollo, it shall not be with impunity!
PHILOCLEON Ah! you would be very glad to eat a lawsuit in vinegar,
BDELYCLEON Only a rascal would steal the flute-girl away from the
PHILOCLEON What flute-girl? Are you distraught, as if you had just
returned from Pluto?
BDELYCLEON By Zeus! But here is the Dardanian wench in person.
PHILOCLEON Nonsense. This is a torch that I have lit in the public
square in honour of the gods.
BDELYCLEON Is this a torch?
PHILOCLEON A torch? Certainly. Do you not see it is of several different
DELYCLEON And what is that black part in the middle?
PHILOCLEON That's the pitch running out while it burns.
BDELYCLEON And there, on the other side, surely that is a girl's
PHILOCLEON No. That's just a small bit of the torch, that projects.
BDELYCLEON What do you mean? what bit? Hi! you woman! come here!
PHILOCLEON Oh! What do you want to do?
BDELYCLEON To take her away from you and lead her off. You are too
much worn out and can do nothing. (He takes the girl into the house.)
PHILOCLEON Listen to me! One day, at Olympia, I saw Euphudion boxing
bravely against Ascondas; he was already aged, and yet with a blow
from his fist he knocked down his young opponent. So watch out that
I don't blacken your eves.
BDELYCLEON (who has returned) By Zeus! you have Olympia at your
finger-ends! (A BAKER'S WIFE enters with an empty basket; she brings
CHAEREPHON with her as witness.)
BAKER'S WIFE (to CHAEREPHON) Come to my help, I beg you, in the
name of the gods! This cursed man, when striking out right and left
with his torch, knocked over ten loaves worth an obolus apiece, and
then, to cap the deal, four others.
BDELYCLEON Do you see what lawsuits you are drawing upon yourself
with your drunkenness? You will have to plead.
PHILOCLEON Oh, no, no! a little pretty talk and pleasant tales will
soon settle the matter and reconcile her with me. Not so, by the goddesses
twain! It shall not be said that you have with impunity spoilt the
wares of Myrtia, the daughter of Ancylion and Sostrate.
PHILOCLEON Listen, woman, I wish to tell you a lovely anecdote.
BAKER'S WIFE By Zeus, no anecdotes for me, thank you.
PHILOCLEON One night Aesop was going out to supper. A drunken bitch
had the impudence to bark near him. Aesop said to her, "Oh, bitch,
bitch! you would do well to sell your wicked tongue and buy some wheat."
BAKER'S WIFE You make a mock of me! Very well! I don't care who you
are, I shall summons you before the market inspectors for damage done
to my business. Chaerephon here shall be my witness.
PHILOCLEON But just listen, here's another will perhaps please you
better. Lasus and Simonides were contesting against each other for
the singing prize. Lasus said, "Damned if I care."
BAKER'S WIFE Ah! really, did he now!
PHILOCLEON As for you, Chaerephon, can you be witness to this woman,
who looks as pale and tragic as Ino when she throws herself from her
rock...at the feet of Euripides? (The BAKER'S WIFE and CHAEREPHON
BDELYCLEON Here, I suppose, comes another to summons you; he has
his witness too. Ah! unhappy indeed we are! (A badly bruised man
ACCUSER I summons you, old man, for outrage.
BDELYCLEON For outrage? Oh! in the name of the gods, do not summons
him! I will be answerable for him; name the price and I will be more
more grateful still.
PHILOCLEON I ask for nothing better than to be reconciled with him;
for I admit I struck him and threw stones at him. So, first come here.
Will you leave it in my hands to name the indemnity I must pay, if
I promise you my friendship as well, or will you fix it yourself?
ACCUSER Fix it; I like neither lawsuits nor disputes.
PHILOCLEON A man of Sybaris fell from his chariot and wounded his
head most severely; he was a very poor driver. One of his friends
came up to him and said, "Every man to his trade." Well then, go you
to Pittalus to get mended.
BDELYCLEON You are incorrigible.
ACCUSER (to his witness) At all events, make a note of his reply.
(They start to leave.)
PHILOCLEON Listen, instead of going off so abruptly. A woman at Sybaris
broke a box.
ACCUSER (to his witness) I again ask you to witness this.
PHILOCLEON The box therefore had the fact attested, but the woman
said, "Never worry about witnessing the matter, but hurry off to buy
a cord to tie it together with; that will be the more sensible course."
ACCUSER Oh! go on with your ribaldry until the Archon calls the case.
(He and his witness depart.)
BDELYCLEON (to PHILOCLEON) By Demeter! you'll stay here no longer!
I am going to take you and carry you off.
PHILOCLEON And what for?
BDELYCLEON What for? I am going to carry you into the house, so that
the accusers will not run out of witnesses.
PHILOCLEON One day at Delphi, Aesop....
BDELYCLEON I don't care a fig for that.
PHILOCLEON ....was accused of having stolen a sacred vase. But he
replied, that the horn-beetle....
BDELYCLEON Oh, dear, dear! You'll drive me crazy with your horn-beetle.
(PHILOCLEON goes on with his fable while BDELYCLEON is carrying him
off the scene by main force.)
CHORUS (singing) I envy you your happiness, old man. What a contrast
to his former frugal habits and his very hard life! Taught now in
quite another school, he will know nothing but the pleasures of ease.
Perhaps he will jibe at it, for indeed it is difficult to renounce
what has become one's second nature. However, many have done it, and
adopting the ideas of others, have changed their use and wont. As
for Philocleon's son, I, like all wise and judicious men, cannot sufficiently
praise his filial tenderness and his tact. Never have I met a more
amiable nature, and I have conceived the greatest fondness for him.
How he triumphed on every point in his discussion with his father,
when he wanted to bring him back to more worthy and honourable tastes!
XANTHIAS (coming out of the house) By Bacchus! Some Evil Genius
has brought this unbearable disorder into our house. The old man,
full up with wine and excited by the sound of the flute, is so delighted,
so enraptured, that he is spending the night executing the old dances
that Thespis first produced on the stage, and just now he offered
to prove to the modern tragedians, by disputing with them for the
dancing prize, that they are nothing but a lot of old dotards. (BDELYCLEON
comes out of the house with his father who is costumed as POLYPHEMUS
in Euripides' Cyclops.)
PHILOCLEON "Who loiters at the door of the vestibule?"
XANTHIAS Here comes our pest, our plague!
PHILOCLEON Let down the barriers. The dance is now to begin. (He
begins to dance in a manner grotesquely parodying that of Euripides.)
XANTHIAS Or rather the madness.
PHILOCLEON Impetuous movement already twists and racks my sides.
How my nostrils wheeze! how my back cracks!
XANTHIAS Go and fill yourself with hellebore.
PHILOCLEON Phrynichus is as bold as a cock and terrifies his rivals.
XANTHIAS He'll be stoned.
PHILOCLEON His leg kicks out sky-high....
XANTHIAS ....and his arse gapes open.
PHILOCLEON Mind your own business. Look how easily my leg-joints
move. Isn't that good?
XANTHIAS God, no, it's merely insane!
PHILOCLEON And now I summon and challenge my rivals. It there be
a tragic poet who pretends to be a skilful dancer, let him come and
contest the matter with me. Is there one? Is there not one?
XANTHIAS Here comes one, and one only. (A very small dancer, costumed
as a crab, enters.)
PHILOCLEON Who is the wretch?
XANTHIAS The younger son of Carcinus.
PHILOCLEON I will crush him to nothing; in point of keeping time,
I will knock him out, for he knows nothing of rhythm.
XANTHIAS Ah! ah! here comes his brother too, another tragedian, and
another son of Carcinus. (Another dancer, hardly larger than the
first, and similarly costumed, enters.)
PHILOCLEON Him I will devour for my dinner.
XANTHIAS Oh! ye gods! I see nothing but crabs. Here is yet another
son of Carcinus. (A third dancer enters, likewise resembling a crab,
but smaller than either of the others.)
PHILOCLEON What's this? A shrimp or a spider?
XANTHIAS It's a crab,-a hermit-crab, the smallest of its kind; it
PHILOCLEON Oh! Carcinus, how proud you should be of your brood! What
a crowd of kinglets have come swooping down here! But we shall have
to measure ourselves against them. Have marinade prepared for seasoning
them, in case I prove the victor.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Let us stand out of the way a little, so that
they may twirl at their ease.
CHORUS (It divides in two and accompanies with its song the wild
dancing of PHILOCLEON and the sons of CARCINUS in the centre of the
Orchestra.) Come, illustrious children of this inhabitant of the
brine, brothers of the shrimps, skip on the sand and the shore of
the barren sea; show us the lightning whirls and twirls of your nimble
limbs. Glorious offspring of Phrynichus, let fly your kicks, so that
the spectators may be overjoyed at seeing your legs so high in air.
Twist, twirl, tap your bellies, kick your legs to the sky. Here comes
your famous father, the ruler of the sea, delighted to see his three
lecherous kinglets. Go on with your dancing, if it pleases you, but
as for us, we shall not join you. Lead us promptly off the stage,
for never a comedy yet was seen where the Chorus finished off with
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Translation of "The Deeds of the Divine Augustus" by Augustus is
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