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- The Acharnians - 4/12 -


WIFE OF DICAEOPOLIS Daughter, set down the basket and let us begin the sacrifice.

DAUGHTER OF DICAEOPOLIS Mother, hand me the ladle, that I may spread the sauce on the cake.

DICAEOPOLIS It is well! Oh, mighty Bacchus, it is with joy that, freed from military duty, I and all mine perform this solemn rite and offer thee this sacrifice; grant that I may keep the rural Dionysia without hindrance and that this truce of thirty years may be propitious for me.

WIFE OF DICAEOPOLIS Come, my child, carry the basket gracefully and with a grave, demure face. Happy he, who shall be your possessor and embrace you so firmly at dawn,[1] that you belch wind like a weasel. Go forward, and have a care they don't snatch your jewels in the crowd.

f[1] The most propitious moment for Love's gambols, observes the scholiast.

DICAEOPOLIS Xanthias, walk behind the basket-bearer and hold the phallus well erect; I will follow, singing the Phallic hymn; thou, wife, look on from the top of the terrace.[1] Forward! Oh, Phales,[2] companion of the orgies of Bacchus, night reveller, god of adultery, friend of young men, these past six[3] years I have not been able to invoke thee. With what joy I return to my farmstead, thanks to the truce I have concluded, freed from cares, from fighting and from Lamachuses![4] How much sweeter, oh Phales, oh, Phales, is it to surprise Thratta, the pretty woodmaid, Strymodorus' slave, stealing wood from Mount Phelleus, to catch her under the arms, to throw her on the ground and possess her, Oh, Phales, Phales! If thou wilt drink and bemuse thyself with me, we shall to-morrow consume some good dish in honour of the peace, and I will hang up my buckler over the smoking hearth.

f[1] Married women did not join in the processions. f[2] The god of generation, worshipped in the form of a phallus. f[3] A remark which fixes the date of the production of 'The Acharnians,' viz. the sixth year of the Peloponnesian War, 426 B.C. f[4] Lamachus was an Athenian general, who figures later in this comedy.

CHORUS It is he, he himself. Stone him, stone him, stone him, strike the wretch. All, all of you, pelt him, pelt him!

DICAEOPOLIS What is this? By Heracles, you will smash my pot.[1]

f[1] At the rural Dionysia a pot of kitchen vegetables was borne in the procession along with other emblems.

CHORUS It is you that we are stoning, you miserable scoundrel.

DICAEOPOLIS And for what sin, Acharnian Elders, tell me that!

CHORUS You ask that, you impudent rascal, traitor to your country; you alone amongst us all have concluded a truce, and you dare to look us in the face!

DICAEOPOLIS But you do not know WHY I have treated for peace. Listen!

CHORUS Listen to you? No, no, you are about to die, we will annihilate you with our stones.

DICAEOPOLIS But first of all, listen. Stop, my friends.

CHORUS I will hear nothing; do not address me; I hate you more than I do Cleon,[1] whom one day I shall flay to make sandals for the Knights. Listen to your long speeches, after you have treated with the Laconians? No, I will punish you.

f[1] Cleon the Demagogue was a currier originally by trade. He was the sworn foe and particular detestation of the Knights or aristocratic party generally.

DICAEOPOLIS Friends, leave the Laconians out of debate and consider only whether I have not done well to conclude my truce.

CHORUS Done well! when you have treated with a people who know neither gods, nor truth, nor faith.

DICAEOPOLIS We attribute too much to the Laconians; as for myself, I know that they are not the cause of all our troubles.

CHORUS Oh, indeed, rascal! You dare to use such language to me and then expect me to spare you!

DICAEOPOLIS No, no, they are not the cause of all our troubles, and I who address you claim to be able to prove that they have much to complain of in us.

CHORUS This passes endurance; my heart bounds with fury. Thus you dare to defend our enemies.

DICAEOPOLIS Were my head on the block I would uphold what I say and rely on the approval of the people.

CHORUS Comrades, let us hurl our stones and dye this fellow purple.

DICAEOPOLIS What black fire-brand has inflamed your heart! You will not hear me? You really will not, Acharnians?

CHORUS No, a thousand times, no.

DICAEOPOLIS This is a hateful injustice.

CHORUS May I die, if I listen.

DICAEOPOLIS Nay, nay! have mercy, have mercy, Acharnians.

CHORUS You shall die.

DICAEOPOLIS Well, blood for blood! I will kill your dearest friend. I have here the hostages of Acharnae;[1] I shall disembowel them.

f[1] That is, the baskets of charcoal.

CHORUS Acharnians, what means this threat? Has he got one of our children in his house? What gives him such audacity?

DICAEOPOLIS Stone me, if it please you; I shall avenge myself on this. (SHOWS A BASKET.) Let us see whether you have any love for your coals.

CHORUS Great Gods! this basket is our fellow-citizen. Stop, stop, in heaven's name!

DICAEOPOLIS I shall dismember it despite your cries; I will listen to nothing.

CHORUS How! will you kill this coal-basket, my beloved comrade?

DICAEOPOLIS Just now, you would not listen to me.

CHORUS Well, speak now, if you will; tell us, tell us you have a weakness for the Lacedaemonians. I consent to anything; never will I forsake this dear little basket.

DICAEOPOLIS First, throw down your stones.

CHORUS There! 'tis done. And you, do put away your sword.

DICAEOPOLIS Let me see that no stones remain concealed in your cloaks.

CHORUS They are all on the ground; see how we shake our garments. Come, no haggling, lay down your sword; we threw away everything while crossing from one side of the stage to the other.[1]

f[1] The stage of the Greek theatre was much broader, and at the same time shallower, than in a modern playhouse.

DICAEOPOLIS What cries of anguish you would have uttered had these coals of Parnes[1] been dismembered, and yet it came very near it; had they perished, their death would have been due to the folly of their fellow-citizens. The poor basket was so frightened, look, it has shed a thick black dust over me, the same as a cuttle-fish does. What an irritable temper! You shout and throw stones, you will not hear my arguments--not even when I propose to speak in favour of the Lacedaemonians with my head on the block; and yet I cling to life.

f[1] A mountain in Attica, in the neighbourhood of Acharnae.

CHORUS Well then, bring out a block before your door, scoundrel, and


The Acharnians - 4/12

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