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- The Acharnians - 6/12 -


f[1] Report said that Euripides' mother had sold vegetables on the market.

EURIPIDES Leave me in peace.

DICAEOPOLIS Oh, just a little broken cup.

EURIPIDES Take it and go and hang yourself. What a tiresome fellow!

DICAEOPOLIS Ah! you do not know all the pain you cause me. Dear, good Euripides, nothing beyond a small pipkin stoppered with a sponge.

EURIPIDES Miserable man! You are robbing me of an entire tragedy.[1] Here, take it and be off.

f[1] Aristophanes means, of course, to imply that the whole talent of Euripides lay in these petty details of stage property.

DICAEOPOLIS I am going, but, great gods! I need one thing more; unless I have it, I am a dead man. Hearken, my little Euripides, only give me this and I go, never to return. For pity's sake, do give me a few small herbs for my basket.

EURIPIDES You wish to ruin me then. Here, take what you want; but it is all over with my pieces!

DICAEOPOLIS I won't ask another thing; I'm going. I am too importunate and forget that I rouse against me the hate of kings.--Ah! wretch that I am! I am lost! I have forgotten one thing, without which all the rest is as nothing. Euripides, my excellent Euripides, my dear little Euripides, may I die if I ask you again for the smallest present; only one, the last, absolutely the last; give me some of the chervil your mother left you in her will.

EURIPIDES Insolent hound! Slave, lock the door!

DICAEOPOLIS Oh, my soul! I must go away without the chervil. Art thou sensible of the dangerous battle we are about to engage upon in defending the Lacedaemonians? Courage, my soul, we must plunge into the midst of it. Dost thou hesitate and art thou fully steeped in Euripides? That's right! do not falter, my poor heart, and let us risk our head to say what we hold for truth. Courage and boldly to the front. I wonder I am so brave.

CHORUS What do you purport doing? what are you going to say? What an impudent fellow! what a brazen heart! to dare to stake his head and uphold an opinion contrary to that of us all! And he does not tremble to face this peril. Come, it is you who desired it, speak!

DICAEOPOLIS Spectators, be not angered if, although I am a beggar, I dare in a Comedy to speak before the people of Athens of the public weal; Comedy too can sometimes discern what is right. I shall not please, but I shall say what is true. Besides, Cleon shall not be able to accuse me of attacking Athens before strangers;[1] we are by ourselves at the festival of the Lenaea; the period when our allies send us their tribute and their soldiers is not yet. Here is only the pure wheat without chaff; as to the resident strangers settled among us, they and the citizens are one, like the straw and the ear.

I detest the Lacedaemonians with all my heart, and may Posidon, the god of Taenarus,[2] cause an earthquake and overturn their dwellings! My vines also have been cut. But come (there are only friends who hear me), why accuse the Laconians of all our woes? Some men (I do not say the city, note particularly that I do not say the city), some wretches, lost in vices, bereft of honour, who were not even citizens of good stamp, but strangers, have accused the Megarians of introducing their produce fraudulently, and not a cucumber, a leveret, a suck[l]ing pig, a clove of garlic, a lump of salt was seen without its being said, "Halloa! these come from Megara," and their being instantly confiscated. Thus far the evil was not serious and we were the only sufferers. But now some young drunkards go to Megara and carry off the courtesan Simaetha; the Megarians, hurt to the quick, run off in turn with two harlots of the house of Aspasia; and so for three gay women Greece is set ablaze. Then Pericles, aflame with ire on his Olympian height, let loose the lightning, caused the thunder to roll, upset Greece and passed an edict, which ran like the song, "That the Megarians be banished both from our land and from our markets and from the sea and from the continent."[3] Meanwhile the Megarians, who were beginning to die of hunger, begged the Lacedaemonians to bring about the abolition of the decree, of which those harlots were the cause; several times we refused their demand; and from that time there was horrible clatter of arms everywhere. You will say that Sparta was wrong, but what should she have done? Answer that. Suppose that a Lacedaemonian had seized a little Seriphian[4] dog on any pretext and had sold it, would you have endured it quietly? Far from it, you would at once have sent three hundred vessels to sea, and what an uproar there would have been through all the city! there 'tis a band of noisy soldiery, here a brawl about the election of a Trierarch; elsewhere pay is being distributed, the Pallas figure-heads are being regilded, crowds are surging under the market porticos, encumbered with wheat that is being measured, wine-skins, oar-leathers, garlic, olives, onions in nets; everywhere are chaplets, sprats, flute-girls, black eyes; in the arsenal bolts are being noisily driven home, sweeps are being made and fitted with leathers; we hear nothing but the sound of whistles, of flutes and fifes to encourage the work-folk. That is what you assuredly would have done, and would not Telephus have done the same? So I come to my general conclusion; we have no common sense.

f[1] 'The Babylonians' had been produced at a time of year when Athens was crowded with strangers; 'The Acharnians,' on the contrary, was played in December. f[2] Sparta had been menaced with an earthquake in 427 B.C. Posidon was 'The Earthshaker,' god of earthquakes, as well as of the sea. f[3] A song by Timocreon the Rhodian, the words of which were practically identical with Pericles' decree. f[4] A small and insignificant island, one of the Cyclades, allied with the Athenians, like months of these islands previous to and during the first part of the Peloponnesian War.

FIRST SEMI-CHORUS Oh! wretch! oh! infamous man! You are naught but a beggar and yet you dare to talk to us like this! you insult their worships the informers!

SECOND SEMI-CHORUS By Posidon! he speaks the truth; he has not lied in a single detail.

FIRST SEMI-CHORUS But though it be true, need he say it? But you'll have no great cause to be proud of your insolence!

SECOND SEMI-CHORUS Where are you running to? Don't you move; if you strike this man, I shall be at you.

FIRST SEMI-CHORUS Lamachus, whose glance flashes lightning, whose plume petrifies thy foes, help! Oh! Lamachus, my friend, the hero of my tribe and all of you, both officers and soldiers, defenders of our walls, come to my aid; else is it all over with me!

LAMACHUS Whence comes this cry of battle? where must I bring my aid? where must I sow dread? who wants me to uncase my dreadful Gorgon's head?[1]

f[1] A figure of Medusa's head, forming the centre of Lamachus' shield.

DICAEOPOLIS Oh, Lamachus, great hero! Your plumes and your cohorts terrify me.

CHORUS This man, Lamachus, incessantly abuses Athens.

LAMACHUS You are but a mendicant and you dare to use language of this sort?

DICAEOPOLIS Oh, brave Lamachus, forgive a beggar who speaks at hazard.

LAMACHUS But what have you said? Let us hear.

DICAEOPOLIS I know nothing about it; the sight of weapons makes me dizzy. Oh! I adjure you, take that fearful Gorgon somewhat farther away.

LAMACHUS There.

DICAEOPOLIS Now place it face downwards on the ground.

LAMACHUS It is done.

DICAEOPOLIS Give me a plume out of your helmet.

LAMACHUS Here is a feather.

DICAEOPOLIS And hold my head while I vomit; the plumes have turned my stomach.

LAMACHUS Hah! what are you proposing to do? do you want to make yourself vomit with this feather?

DICAEOPOLIS Is it a feather? what bird's? a braggart's?

LAMACHUS Ah! ah! I will rip you open.

DICAEOPOLIS No, no, Lamachus! Violence is out of place here! But as you are so


The Acharnians - 6/12

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