XANTHIAS, servant of DIONYSUS
A MAID SERVANT OF PERSEPHONE
HOSTESS, keeper of cook-shop
PLATHANE, her partner
CHORUS OF FROGS
CHORUS OF BLESSED MYSTICS
The scene shows the house of HERACLES in the background. There enter two travellers: DIONYSUS on foot, in his customary yellow robe and buskins but also with the club and lion's skin of Heracles, and his servant XANTHIAS on a donkey, carrying the luggage on a pole over his shoulder.
XANTHIAS Shall I crack any of those old jokes, master,
At which the audience never fail to laugh?
DIONYSUS Aye, what you will, except "I'm getting crushed":
Fight shy of that: I'm sick of that already.
XANTHIAS Nothing else smart?
DIONYSUS Aye, save "my shoulder's aching."
XANTHIAS Come now, that comical joke?
DIONYSUS With all my heart. Only be careful not to shift your pole, And-
DIONYSUS And vow that you've a belly-ache.
XANTHIAS May I not say I'm overburdened so That if none ease me, I must ease myself?
DIONYSUS For mercy's sake, not till I'm going to vomit.
XANTHIAS What! must I bear these burdens, and not make One of the jokes Ameipsias and Lycis And Phrynichus, in every play they write, Put in the mouths of their burden-bearers?
DIONYSUS Don't make them; no! I tell you when I see Their plays, and hear those jokes, I come away More than a twelvemonth older than I went.
XANTHIAS O thrice unlucky neck of mine, which now Is getting crushed, yet must not crack its joke!
DIONYSUS Now is not this fine pampered insolence When I myself, Dionysus, son of-Pipkin, Toil on afoot, and let this fellow ride, Taking no trouble, and no burden bearing?
XANTHIAS What, don't I bear?
DIONYSUS How can you when you're riding?
XANTHIAS Why, I bear these.
XANTHIAS Most unwillingly.
DIONYSUS Does not the donkey bear the load you're bearing?
XANTHIAS Not what I bear myself: by Zeus, not he.
DIONYSUS How can you bear, when you are borne yourself?
XANTHIAS Don't know: but anyhow my shoulder's aching.
DIONYSUS Then since you say the donkey helps you not, You lift him up and carry him in turn.
XANTHIAS O hang it all! why didn't I fight at sea? You should have smarted bitterly for this.
DIONYSUS Get down, you rascal; I've been trudging on Till now I've reached the portal, where I'm going First to turn in. Boy! Boy! I say there, Boy! (Enter HERACLES from house.)
HERACLES Who banged the door? How like prancing Centaur
He drove against it Mercy o' me, what's this?
DIONYSUS Did you observe?
DIONYSUS How alarmed he is.
XANTHIAS Aye truly, lest you've lost your wits.
HERACLES O by Demeter, I can't choose but laugh. Biting my lips won't stop me. Ha! ha! ha!
DIONYSUS Pray you, come hither, I have need of you.
HERACLES I vow I can't help laughing, I can't help it. A lion's hide upon a yellow silk, A club and buskin! What's it all about? Where were you going?
DIONYSUS I was serving lately Aboard the-Cleisthenes. More than a dozen of the enemy's ships.
HERACLES You two?
DIONYSUS We two.
HERACLES And then I awoke, and lo!
DIONYSUS There as, on deck, I'm reading to myself The Andromeda, a sudden pang of longing. Shoots through my heart, you can't conceive how keenly.
HERACLES How big a pang?
DIONYSUS A small one, Molon's size.
HERACLES Caused by a woman?
HERACLES A boy?
DIONYSUS No, no.
HERACLES A man?
DIONYSUS Ah! ah!
HERACLES Was it for Cleisthenes?
DIONYSUS Don't mock me, brother: on my life I am In a bad way: such fierce desire consumes me.
HERACLES Aye, little brother? how?
DIONYSUS I can't describe it. But yet I'll tell you in a riddling way. Have you e'er felt a sudden lust for soup?
HERACLES Soup! Zeus-a-mercy, yes, ten thousand times.
DIONYSUS Is the thing clear, or must I speak again?
HERACLES Not of the soup: I'm clear about the soup.
DIONYSUS Well, just that sort of pang devours my heart For lost Euripides.
HERACLES A dead man too.
DIONYSUS And no one shall persuade me not to go After the man.
HERACLES Do you mean below, to Hades?
DIONYSUS And lower still, if there's a lower still.
HERACLES What on earth for?
DIONYSUS I want a genuine poet, "For some are not, and those that are, are bad."
HERACLES What! does not Iophon live?
DIONYSUS Well, he's the sole Good thing remaining, if even he is good. For even of that I'm not exactly certain.
HERACLES If go you must, there's Sophocles-he comes Before Euripides-why not take him?
DIONYSUS Not till I've tried if Iophon's coin rings true
When he's alone, apart from Sophocles. Besides, Euripides, the crafty rogue, Will find a thousand shifts to get away, But he was easy here, is easy there.
HERACLES But Agathon, where is he?
DIONYSUS He has gone and left us. A genial poet, by his friends much missed.
HERACLES Gone where?
DIONYSUS To join the blessed in their banquets.
HERACLES But what of Xenocles?
DIONYSUS O he be hanged!
XANTHIAS But never a word of me, Not though my shoulder's chafed so terribly. HERACLES But have you not a shoal of little songsters, Tragedians by the myriad, who can chatter A furlong faster than Euripides?
DIONYSUS Those be mere vintage-leavings, jabberers, choirs
Of swallow-broods, degraders of their art, Who get one chorus, and are seen no more, The Muses' love once gained. But O, my friend, Search where you will, you'll never find a true Creative genius, uttering startling things.
HERACLES Creative? how do you mean? Who'll dare some novel venturesome conceit, "Air, Zeus's chamber," or "Time's foot," or this, "'Twas not my mind that swore: my tongue committed A little perjury on its own account."
HERACLES You like that style?
DIONYSUS Like it? I dote upon it.
HERACLES I vow its ribald nonsense, and you know it.
DIONYSUS "Rule not my mind": you've got a house to mind.
HERACLES Really and truly though 'tis paltry stuff.
DIONYSUS Teach me to dine!
XANTHIAS But never a word of me.
DIONYSUS But tell me truly-'twas for this I came Dressed up to mimic you-what friends received And entertained you when you went below To bring back Cerberus, in case I need them. And tell me too the havens, fountains, shops, Roads, resting-places, stews, refreshment-rooms, Towns, lodgings, hostesses, with whom were found The fewest bugs.
XANTHIAS But never a word of me.
HERACLES You are really game to go?
DIONYSUS O drop that, can't you? And tell me this: of all the roads you know Which is the quickest way to get to Hades? I want one not too warm, nor yet too cold.
HERACLES Which shall I tell you first? which shall it be?
There's one by rope and bench: you launch away And-hang yourself.
DIONYSUS No thank you: that's too stifling.
HERACLES Then there's a track, a short and beaten cut, By pestle and mortar.
DIONYSUS Hemlock, do you mean?
HERACLES Just so.
DIONYSUS No, that's too deathly cold a way; You have hardly started ere your shins get numbed.
HERACLES Well, would you like a steep and swift descent?
DIONYSUS Aye, that's the style: my walking powers are small.
HERACLES Go down to the Cerameicus.
DIONYSUS And do what?
HERACLES Climb to the tower's top pinnacle-
DIONYSUS And then?
HERACLES Observe the torch-race started, and when all The multitude is shouting "Let them go," Let yourself go.
DIONYSUS Go! whither?
HERACLES To the ground.
DIONYSUS And lose, forsooth, two envelopes of brain. I'll not try that.
HERACLES Which will you try?
DIONYSUS The way You went yourself.
HERACLES A parlous voyage that, For first you'll come to an enormous lake Of fathomless depth.
DIONYSUS And how am I to cross?
HERACLES An ancient mariner will row you over In a wee boat, so big. The fare's two obols.
DIONYSUS Fie! The power two obols have, the whole world through!
How came they thither!
HERACLES Theseus took them down. And next you'll see great snakes and savage monsters In tens of thousands.
DIONYSUS You needn't try to scare me, I'm going to go.
HERACLES Then weltering seas of filth And ever-rippling dung: and plunged therein, Whoso has wronged the stranger here on earth, Or robbed his boylove of the promised pay, Or swinged his mother, or profanely smitten His father's check, or sworn an oath forsworn, Or copied out a speech of Morsimus.
DIONYSUS There too, perdie, should he be plunged, whoe'er
Has danced the sword-dance of Cinesias.
HERACLES And next the breath of flutes will float around you,
And glorious sunshine, such as ours, you'll see, And myrtle groves, and happy bands who clap Their hands in triumph, men and women too.
DIONYSUS And who are they?
HERACLES The happy mystic bands,
XANTHIAS And I'm the donkey in the mystery show. But I'll not stand it, not one instant longer.
HERACLES Who'll tell you everything you want to know. You'll find them dwelling close beside the road You are going to travel, just at Pluto's gate. And fare thee well, my brother.
DIONYSUS And to you Good cheer. (Exit HERACLES.) Now sirrah, pick you up the traps.
XANTHIAS Before I've put them down?
DIONYSUS And quickly too.
XANTHIAS No, prithee, no: but hire a body, one They're carrying out, on purpose for the trip.
DIONYSUS If I can't find one?
XANTHIAS Then I'll take them.
DIONYSUS Good. And see they are carrying out a body now.
Here a CORPSE, wrapped in its grave-clothes, and lying on a bier, is carried across the stage.
Hallo! you there, you deadman, are you willing To carry down our little traps to Hades?
CORPSE What are they?
CORPSE Two drachmas for the job?
DIONYSUS Nay, that's too much.
CORPSE Out of the pathway, you!
DIONYSUS Beshrew thee, stop: may-be we'll strike a bargain.
CORPSE Pay me two drachmas, or it's no use talking.
DIONYSUS One and a half.
CORPSE I'd liefer live again I
XANTHIAS How absolute the knave is! He be hanged! I'll go myself.
DIONYSUS You're the right sort, my man. Now to the ferry. (Enter CHARON.)
CHARON Yoh, up! lay her to.
XANTHIAS Whatever's that?
DIONYSUS Why, that's the lake, by Zeus, Whereof he spake, and yon's the ferry-boat.
XANTHIAS Poseidon, yes, and that old fellow's Charon.
DIONYSUS Charon! O welcome, Charon! welcome, Charon!
CHARON Who's for the Rest from every pain and ill? Who's for the Lethe's plain? the Donkey-shearings? Who's for Cerberia? Taenarum? or the Ravens?
CHARON Hurry in.
DIONYSUS But where are you going really? In truth to the Ravens?
CHARON Aye, for your behoof. Step in.
DIONYSUS (to XANTHIAS) Now, lad.
CHARON A slave? I take no slave, Unless he has fought for his bodyrights at sea.
XANTHIAS I couldn't go. I'd got the eye-disease.
CHARON Then fetch a circuit round about the lake.
XANTHIAS Where must I wait?
CHARON Beside the Withering stone, Hard by the Rest.
DIONYSUS You understand?
XANTHIAS Too well. O, what ill omen crossed me as I started! Exit.
CHARON (to DIONYSUS) Sit to the oar. (calling) Who else for the boat? Be quick. (to DIONYSUS) Hi! what are you doing?
DIONYSUS What am I doing? Sitting On to the oar. You told me to, yourself
CHARON Now sit you there, you little Potgut.
DIONYSUS Now stretch your arms full length before you.
CHARON Come, don't keep fooling; plant your feet, Pull with a will.
DIONYSUS Why, how am I to pull? I'm not an oarsman, seaman, Salaminian. I can't.
CHARON You can. Just dip your oar in once, You'll hear the loveliest timing songs.
DIONYSUS What from?
CHARON Frog-swans, most wonderful.
DIONYSUS Then give the word.
CHARON Heave ahoy! heave ahoy I
FROGS (off stage) Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax, Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax! We children of the fountain and the lake Let us wake Our full choir-shout, as the flutes are ringing out, Our symphony of clear-voiced song. The song we used to love in the Marshland up above, In praise of Dionysus to produce, Of Nysaean Dionysus, son of Zeus, When the revel-tipsy throng, all crapulous and gay, To our precinct reeled along on the holy Pitcher day, Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.
DIONYSUS O, dear! O, dear! now I declare I've got a bump upon my rump,
FROGS Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.
DIONYSUS But you, perchance, don't care.
FROGS Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.
DIONYSUS Hang you, and your ko-axing tool There's nothing but ko-ax with you.
FROGS That is right, Mr. Busybody, right! For the Muses of the lyre love us well; And hornfoot Pan who plays on the pipe his jocund lays; And Apollo, Harper bright, in our Chorus takes delight; For the strong reed's sake which I grow within my lake To be girdled in his lyre's deep shell. Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.
DIONYSUS My hands are blistered very sore; My stern below is sweltering so, 'Twill soon, I know, upturn and roar Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax. O tuneful race, O pray give o'er, O sing no more.
FROGS Ah, no! ah, no! Loud and louder our chant must flow. Sing if ever ye sang of yore, When in sunny and glorious days Through the rushes and marsh-flags springing On we swept, in the joy of singing Myriad-diving roundelays. Or when fleeing the storm, we went Down to the depths, and our choral song Wildly raised to a loud and long Bubble-bursting accompaniment.
FROGS AND DIONYSUS Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.
DIONYSUS This timing song I take from you.
FROGS That's a dreadful thing to do.
DIONYSUS Much more dreadful, if I row Till I burst myself, I trow.
FROGS AND DIONYSUS Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.
DIONYSUS Go, hang yourselves; for what care I?
FROGS All the same we'll shout and cry, Stretching all our throats with song, Shouting, crying, all day long,
FROGS AND DIONYSUS Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.
DIONYSUS In this you'll never, never win.
FROGS This you shall not beat us in.
DIONYSUS No, nor ye prevail o'er me. Never! never! I'll my song, Shout, if need be, all day Yong, Until I've learned to master your ko-ax. Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax. I thought I'd put a stop to your ko-ax.
CHARON Stop! Easy! Take the oar and push her to. Now pay your fare and go.
DIONYSUS Here' tis: two obols. Xanthias! where's Xanthias? Is it Xanthias there?
XANTHIAS (off stage) Hoi, hoi!
DIONYSUS Come hither.
XANTHIAS (Entering) Glad to meet you, master.
DIONYSUS What have you there?
XANTHIAS Nothing but filth and darkness.
DIONYSUS But tell me, did you see the parricides And perjured folk he mentioned?
XANTHIAS Didn't you?
DIONYSUS Poseidon, yes. Why look! (pointing to the audience) I see them now. What's the next step?
XANTHIAS We'd best be moving on. This is the spot where Heracles declared Those savage monsters dwell.
DIONYSUS O hang the fellow. That's all his bluff: he thought to scare me off, The jealous dog, knowing my plucky ways. There's no such swaggerer lives as Heracles. Why, I'd like nothing better than to achieve Some bold adventure, worthy of our trip.
XANTHIAS I know you would. Hallo! I hear a noise.
DIONYSUS Where? what?
XANTHIAS Behind us, there.
DIONYSUS Get you behind.
XANTHIAS No, it's in front.
DIONYSUS Get you in front directly.
XANTHIAS And now I see the most ferocious monster.
DIONYSUS O, what's it like?
XANTHIAS Like everything by turns. Now it's a bull: now it's a mule: and now The loveliest girl.
DIONYSUS O, where? I'll go and meet her.
XANTHIAS It's ceased to be a girl: it's a dog now.
DIONYSUS It is Empusa!
XANTHIAS Well, its face is all Ablaze with fire.
DIONYSUS Has it a copper leg?
XANTHIAS A copper leg? yes, one; and one of cow dung.
DIONYSUS O, whither shall I flee?
XANTHIAS O, whither I?
DIONYSUS My priest, protect me, and we'll sup together.
XANTHIAS King Heracles, we're done for.
DIONYSUS O, forbear, Good fellow, call me anything but that.
XANTHIAS Well then, Dionysus.
DIONYSUS O, that's worse again,
XANTHIAS (to the SPECTRE) Aye, go thy way. O master, here, come here.
DIONYSUS O, what's up now?
XANTHIAS Take courage; all's serene. And, like Hegelochus, we now may say "Out of the storm there comes a new wether." Empusa's gone.
DIONYSUS Swear it.
XANTHIAS By Zeus she is.
DIONYSUS Swear it again.
XANTHIAS By Zeus.
XANTHIAS By Zeus. O dear, O dear, how pale I grew to see her, But he, from fright has yellowed me all over.
DIONYSUS Ah me, whence fall these evils on my head? on Who is the god to blame for my destruction? Air, Zeus's chamber, or the Foot of Time? (A flute is played behind the scenes.)
XANTHIAS What's the matter?
DIONYSUS The breath of flutes.
XANTHIAS Aye, and a whiff of torches Breathed o'er me too; a very mystic whiff.
DIONYSUS Then crouch we down, and mark what's going on.
CHORUS (in the distance) O lacchus! O lacchus! O Iacchus!
XANTHIAS I have it, master: 'tis those blessed Mystics,
Of whom he told us, sporting hereabouts. They sing the Iacchus which Diagoras made.
DIONYSUS I think so too: we had better both keep quiet And so find out exactly what it is.
Enter CHORUS, who had chanted the songs of the FROGS, as initiates.
CHORUS O Iacchus! power excelling, here in stately temples dwelling.
O Iacchus! O lacchus! Come to tread this verdant level,
Come to dance in mystic revel,
Come whilst round thy forehead hurtles Many a wreath of fruitful myrtles, Come with wild and saucy paces Mingling in our joyous dance, Pure and holy, which embraces all the charms of all the Graces,
When the mystic choirs advance.
XANTHIAS Holy and sacred queen, Demeter's daughter, O, what a jolly whiff of pork breathed o'er me!
DIONYSUS Hist! and perchance you'll get some tripe yourself.
CHORUS Come, arise, from sleep awaking, come the fiery torches shaking,
O Iacchus! O Iacchus! Morning Star that shinest nightly. Lo, the mead is blazing brightly, Age forgets its years and sadness, Aged knees curvet for gladness, Lift thy flashing torches o'er us, Marshal all thy blameless train, Lead, O lead the way before us; lead the lovely youthful Chorus
To the marshy flowery plain. All evil thoughts and profane be still: far hence, far hence from our choirs depart, Who knows not well what the Mystics tell, or is not holy and pure of heart; Who ne'er has the noble revelry learned, or danced the dance of the Muses high; or shared in the Bacchic rites which old bull-eating Cratinus's words supply; Who vulgar coarse buffoonery loves, though all untimely the they make;
Or lives not easy and kind with all, or kindling faction forbears to slake, But fans the fire, from a base desire some pitiful gain for himself to reap; Or takes, in office, his gifts and bribes, while the city is tossed on the stormy deep; Who fort or fleet to the foe betrays; or, a vile Thorycion, ships away Forbidden stores from Aegina's shores, to Epidaurus across the Bay
Transmitting oar-pads and sails and tar, that curst collector of five per cents; The knave who tries to procure supplies for the use of the enemy's armaments; The Cyclian singer who dares befoul the Lady Hecate's wayside shrine;
The public speaker who once lampooned in our Bacchic feasts would, with heart malign, Keep nibbling away the Comedians' pay;- to these I utter my warning cry, I charge them once, I charge them twice, I charge them thrice, that they draw not nigh To the sacred dance of the Mystic choir. But ye, my comrades, awake the song, The night-long revels of joy and mirth which ever of right to our feast belong. Advance, true hearts, advance! On to the gladsome bowers, On to the sward, with flowers Embosomed bright! March on with jest, and jeer, and dance, Full well ye've supped to-night. March, chanting loud your lays, Your hearts and voices raising, The Saviour goddess praising Who vows she'll still Our city save to endless days, Whate'er Thorycion's will. Break off the measure, and change the time; and now with chanting and hymns adorn Demeter, goddess mighty and high, the harvest-queen, the giver of corn. O Lady, over our rites presiding, Preserve and succour thy choral throng, And grant us all, in thy help confiding, To dance and revel the whole day long; And much in earnest, and much in jest, Worthy thy feast, may we speak therein. And when we have bantered and laughed our best, The victor's wreath be it ours to win. Call we now the youthful god, call him hither without delay,
Him who travels amongst his chorus,
dancing along on the
O, come with the joy of thy festival song,
O, come to the goddess, O, mix with our throng
Untired, though the journey be never so long. O Lord of the frolic and dance, lacchus, beside me advance!
For fun, and for cheapness, our dress thou hast rent, Through thee we may dance to the top of our bent, Reviling, and jeering, and none will resent. O Lord of the frolic and dance, lacchus, beside me advance!
A sweet pretty girl I observed in the show, Her robe had been torn in the scuffle, and lo, There peeped through the tatters a bosom of snow. O Lord of the frolic and dance, lacchus, beside me advance!
DIONYSUS Wouldn't I like to follow on, and try A little sport and dancing?
XANTHIAS Wouldn't I?
CHORUS Shall we all a merry joke At Archedemus poke, Who has not cut his guildsmen yet, though seven years old;
Yet up among the dead He is demagogue and head And contrives the topmost place of the rascaldom to hold?
And Cleisthenes, they say, Is among the tombs all day, Bewailing for his lover with a lamentable whine. And Callias, I'm told, Has become a sailor bold, And casts a lion's hide o'er his members feminine.
DIONYSUS Can any of you tell Where Pluto here may dwell, For we, sirs, are two strangers who were never here before?
CHORUS O, then no further stray, Nor again inquire the way, For know that ye have journeyed to his very entrance-door.
DIONYSUS Take up the wraps, my lad.
XANTHIAS Now is not this too bad? Like "Zeus's
CHORUS Now wheel your sacred dances through the glade with flowers bedight, All ye who are partakers of the holy festal rite; And I will with the women and the holy maidens go Where they keep the nightly vigil, an auspicious light to show.
Now haste we to the roses, And the meadows full of posies, Now haste we to the meadows In our own old way, In choral dances blending, In dances never ending, Which only for the holy The Destinies array. O, happy mystic chorus, The blessed sunshine o'er us On us alone is smiling, In its soft sweet light: On us who strove forever With holy, pure endeavour, Alike by friend and stranger To guide our steps aright.
DIONYSUS What's the right way to knock? I wonder how The natives here are wont to knock at doors.
XANTHIAS No dawdling: taste the door. You've got, remember,
The lion-hide and pride of Heracles.
DIONYSUS (knocking) Boy! boy! (The door opens. AEACUS appears.)
AEACUS Who's there?
DIONYSUS I, Heracles the strong!
AEACUS O, you most shameless desperate ruffian, you O, villain, villain, arrant vilest villain! Who seized our Cerberus by the throat, and fled, And ran, and rushed, and bolted, haling of The dog, my charge! But now I've got thee fast. So close the Styx's inky-hearted rock, The blood-bedabbled peak of Acheron Shall hem thee in: the hell-hounds of Cocytus Prowl round thee; whilst the hundred-headed Asp Shall rive thy heart-strings: the Tartesian Lamprey Prey on thy lungs: and those Tithrasian Gorgons Mangle and tear thy kidneys, mauling them, Entrails and all, into one bloody mash. I'll speed a running foot to fetch them hither. (Exit AEACUS.)
XANTHIAS Hallo! what now?
DIONYSUS I've done it: call the god.
XANTHIAS Get up, you laughing-stock; get up directly, Before you're seen.
DIONYSUS What, I get up? I'm fainting. Please dab a sponge of water on my heart.
XANTHIAS Here! Dab it on.
DIONYSUS Where is it?
XANTHIAS Ye golden gods, Lies your heart there?
DIONYSUS It got so terrified It fluttered down into my stomach's pit.
XANTHIAS Cowardliest of gods and men!
DIONYSUS The cowardliest? I? What I, who asked you for a sponge, a thing A coward never would have done!
XANTHIAS What then?
DIONYSUS A coward would have lain there wallowing; But I stood up, and wiped myself withal.
XANTHIAS Poseidon! quite heroic.
DIONYSUS 'Deed I think so. But weren't you frightened at those dreadful threats And shoutings?
XANTHIAS Frightened? Not a bit. I cared not.
DIONYSUS Come then, if you're so very brave a man, Will you be I, and take the hero's club And lion's skin, since you're so monstrous plucky? And I'll be now the slave, and bear the luggage.
XANTHIAS Hand them across. I cannot choose but take them.
And now observe the Xanthio-heracles If I'm a coward and a sneak like you.
DIONYSUS Nay, you're the rogue from Melite's own self. And I'll pick up and carry on the traps. (Enter a MAID-SERVANT of Persephone, from the door.)
MAID O welcome, Heracles! come in, sweetheart. My Lidy, when they told her, set to work, Baked mighty loaves, boiled two or three tureens Of lentil soup, roasted a prime ox whole, Made rolls and honey-cakes. So come along.
XANTHIAS (declining) You are too kind.
MAID I will not let you go. I will not let you! Why, she's stewing slices Of juicy bird's-flesh, and she's making comfits, And tempering down her richest wine. Come, dear, Come along in.
XANTHIAS (still declining) Pray thank her.
MAID O you're jesting, I shall not let you off: there's such a lovely Flute-girl all ready, and we've two or three Dancing-girls also.
XANTHIAS Eh! what! Dancing-girls?
MAID Young budding virgins, freshly tired and trimmed. Come, dear, come in. The cook was dishing up The cutlets, and they are bringing in the tables.
XANTHIAS Then go you in, and tell those dancing-girls Of whom you spake, I'm coming in Myself. (Exit MAID.) Pick up the traps, my lad, and follow me.
DIONYSUS Hi! stop! you're not in earnest, just because I dressed you up, in fun, as Heracles? Come, don't keep fooling, Xanthias, but lift And carry in the traps yourself You are never going to strip me of these togs You gave me!
DIONYSUS Going to? No, I'm doing it now. off with that lion-skin.
XANTHIAS Bear witness all, The gods shall judge between us.
DIONYSUS Gods, indeed! Why, how could you (the vain and foolish thought I) A slave, a mortal, act Alemena's son?
XANTHIAS All right then, take them; maybe, if God will,
You'll soon require my services again.
CHORUS This is the part of a dexterous clever Man with his wits about him ever, One who has travelled the world to see; Always to shift, and to keep through all Close to the sunny side of the wall; Not like a pictured block to be, Standing always in one position; Nay but to veer, with expedition, And ever to catch the favouring breeze, This is the part of a shrewd tactician, This is to be a-Theramenes!
DIONYSUS Truly an exquisite joke 'twould be, Him with a dancing-girl to see, Lolling at ease on Milesian rugs; Me, like a slave, beside him standing, Aught that he wants to his lordship handing; Then as the damsel fair he hugs, Seeing me all on fire to embrace her, He would perchance (for there's no man baser), Turning him round like a lazy lout, Straight on my mouth deliver a facer, Knocking my ivory choirmen out. (Enter HOSTESS and PLATHANE.) Hostess. O Plathane! Plathane! that naughty man, That's he who got into our tavern once, And ate up sixteen loaves.
PLATHANE O, so he is! The very man.
XANTHIAS Bad luck for somebody!
HOSTESS O and, besides, those twenty bits of stew, Half-obol pieces.
XANTHIAS Somebody's going to catch it!
HOSTESS That garlic too.
DIONYSUS Woman, you're talking nonsense. You don't know what you're saying.
HOSTESS O, you thought I shouldn't know you with your buskins on! Ah, and I've not yet mentioned all that fish, No, nor the new-made cheese: he gulped it down, Baskets and all, unlucky that we were. And when I just alluded to the price, He looked so fierce, and bellowed like a bull.
XANTHIAS Yes, that's his way: that's what he always does.
HOSTESS O, and he drew his sword, and seemed quite mad.
PLATHANE O, that he did.
HOSTESS And terrified us so We sprang up to the cockloft, she and I. Then out he hurled, decamping with the rugs.
XANTHIAS That's his way too; something must be done.
HOSTESS Quick, run and call my patron Cleon here
PLATHANE O, if you meet him, call Hyperbolus! We'll pay you out to-day.
HOSTESS O filthy throat, O how I'd like to take a stone, and hack Those grinders out with which you chawed my wares.
PLATHANE I'd like to pitch you in the deadman's pit.
HOSTESS I'd like to get a reaping-hook and scoop That gullet out with which you gorged my tripe. But I'll to Cleon: he'll soon serve his writs; He'll twist it out of you to-day, he will. (Exeunt HOSTESS and PLATHANE.)
DIONYSUS Perdition seize me, if I don't love Xanthias.
XANTHIAS Aye, aye, I know your drift: stop, stop that talking
I won't be Heracles.
DIONYSUS O, don't say so, Dear, darling Xanthias.
XANTHIAS Why, how can I, A slave, a mortal, act Alemena's son!
DIONYSUS Aye, aye, I know you are vexed, and I deserve And if you pummel me, I won't complain. But if I strip you of these togs again, Perdition seize myself, my wife, my children, And, most of all, that blear-eyed Archedemus.
XANTHIAS That oath contents me: on those terms I take them.
CHORUS Now that at last you appear once more, Wearing the garb that at first you wore, Wielding the club and the tawny skin, Now it is yours to be up and doing, Glaring like mad, and your youth renewing, Mindful of him whose guise you are in. If, when caught in a bit of a scrape, you Suffer a word of alarm to escape you, Showing yourself but a feckless knave, Then will your master at once undrape you, Then you'll again be the toiling slave.
XANTHIAS There, I admit, you have given to me Capital hint, and the like idea, Friends, had occurred to myself before. Truly if anything good befell He would be wanting, I know full well, Wanting to take to the togs once more. Nevertheless, while in these I'm vested, Ne'er shall you find me craven-crested, No, for a dittany look I'll wear, Aye and methinks it will soon be tested, Hark! how the portals are rustling there. (Re-enter AEACUS with assistants.)
AEACUS Seize the dog-stealer, bind him, pinion him, Drag him to justice
DIONYSUS Somebody's going to catch it.
XANTHIAS (striking out) Hands off! away! stand back!
AEACUS Eh? You're for fighting. Ho! Ditylas, Sceblyas, and Pardocas, Come hither, quick; fight me this sturdy knave.
DIONYSUS Now isn't it a shame the man should strike And he a thief besides?
AEACUS A monstrous shame!
DIONYSUS A regular burning shame!
XANTHIAS By the Lord Zeus, If ever I was here before, if ever I stole one hair's-worth from you, let me die! And now I'll make you a right noble offer, Arrest my lad: torture him as you will, And if you find I'm guilty, take and kill me.
AEACUS Torture him, how?
XANTHIAS In any mode you please. Pile bricks upon him: stuff his nose with acid: Flay, rack him, hoist him; flog him with a scourge Of prickly bristles: only not with this, A soft-leaved onion, or a tender leek.
AEACUS A fair proposal. If I strike too hard And maim the boy, I'll make you compensation.
XANTHIAS I shan't require it. Take him out and flog him.
AEACUS Nay, but I'll do it here before your eyes. Now then, put down the traps, and mind you speak The truth, young fellow.
DIONYSUS (in agony) Man' don't torture me! I am a god. You'll blame yourself hereafter If you touch me.
AEACUS Hillo! What's that you are saying?
DIONYSUS I say I'm Bacchus, son of Zeus, a god, And he's the slave.
AEACUS You hear him?
XANTHIAS Hear him? Yes. All the more reason you should flog him well. For if he is a god, he won't perceive it.
DIONYSUS Well, but you say that you're a god yourself. So why not you be flogged as well as I?
XANTHIAS A fair proposal. And be this the test, Whichever of us two you first behold Flinching or crying out-he's not the god.
AEACUS Upon my word you're quite the gentleman, You're all for right and justice. Strip then, both.
XANTHIAS How can you test us fairly?
AEACUS Easily. I'll give you blow for blow.
XANTHIAS A good idea. We're ready now! (AEACUS strikes him) see if you catch me flinching.
AEACUS I struck you.
XANTHIAS (incredulously) No!
AEACUS Well, it seems "no" indeed. Now then I'll strike the other. (Strikes DIONYSUS.)
DIONYSUS Tell me when?
AEACUS I struck you.
DIONYSUS Struck me? Then why didn't I sneeze?
AEACUS Don't know, I'm sure. I'll try the other again.
XANTHIAS And quickly too. Good gracious!
AEACUS Why "good gracious"? Not hurt you, did I?
XANTHIAS No, I merely thought of The Diomeian feast of Heracles.
AEACUS A holy man! 'Tis now the other's turn.
DIONYSUS Hi! Hi!
DIONYSUS Look at those horsemen, look!
AEACUS But why these tears?
DIONYSUS There's such a smell of onions.
AEACUS Then you don't mind it?
DIONYSUS (cheerfully) Mind it? Not a bit.
AEACUS Well, I must go to the other one again.
XANTHIAS O! O!
XANTHIAS Do pray pull out this thorn.
AEACUS What does it mean? 'Tis this one's turn again.
(shrieking) Apollo! Lord!
XANTHIAS He flinched! You heard him?
DIONYSUS Not at all; a jolly Verse of Hipponax flashed across my mind.
XANTHIAS You don't half do it: cut his flanks to pieces.
AEACUS By Zeus, well thought on. Turn your belly here.
DIONYSUS (screaming) Poseidon!
XANTHIAS There! he's flinching.
DIONYSUS (singing) who dost reign Amongst the Aegean peaks and creeks And oer the deep blue main.
AEACUS No, by Demeter, still I can't find out Which is the god, but come ye both indoors; My lord himself and Persephassa there, Being gods themselves, will soon find out the truth.
DIONYSUS Right! right! I only wish you had thought of that
Before you gave me those tremendous whacks. (Exeunt DIONYSUS, XANTHIAS, AEACUS, and attendants.)
CHORUS Come, Muse, to our Mystical Chorus, O come to the joy of my song, O see on the benches before us that countless and wonderful throng,
Where wits by the thousand abide, with more than a Cleophon's pride-
On the lips of that foreigner base, of
There is shrieking, his kinsman by race, The garrulous swallow of Thrace; From that perch of exotic descent, Rejoicing her sorrow to vent, She pours to her spirit's content, a nightingale's woful lament,
That e'en though the voting be equal, his ruin will soon be the sequel.
Well it suits the holy Chorus evermore with counsel wise
To exhort and teach the city; this we therefore now advise-
End the townsmen's apprehensions; equalize the rights of all;
If by Phrynichus's wrestlings some perchance sustained a fall,
Yet to these 'tis surely open, having put away their sin,
For their slips and vacillations pardon at your hands to win.
Give your brethren back their franchise. Sin and shame it were that slaves, Who have once with stern devotion fought your battle on the waves,
Should be straightway lords and masters, yea Plataeans fully blown-
Not that this deserves our censure; there I praise you; there alone
Has the city, in her anguish, policy and wisdom shown- Nay but these, of old accustomed on our ships to fight and win,
(They, their fathers too before them), these our very kith and kin,
You should likewise, when they ask you, pardon for their single sin.
O by nature best and wisest, O relax your jealous ire, Let us all the world as kinsfolk and as citizens acquire,
All who on our ships will battle well and bravely by our side.
If we cocker up our city, narrowing her with senseless pride,
Now when she is rocked and reeling in the cradles of the sea,
Here again will after ages deem we acted brainlessly. And O if I'm able to scan the habits and life of a man Who shall rue his iniquities soon! not long shall that little baboon,
That Cleigenes shifty and small, the wickedest bathman of all
Who are lords of the earth-which is brought from the isle of Cimolus, and wrought With nitre and lye into soap- Not long shall he vex us, I hope. And this the unlucky one knows, Yet ventures a peace to oppose, And being addicted to blows he carries a stick as he goes,
Lest while he is tipsy and reeling, some robber his cloak should be stealing. Often has it crossed my fancy, that the city loves to deal
With the very best and noblest members of her commonweal, just as with our ancient coinage, and the newly-minted gold. Yea for these, our sterling pieces, all of pure Athenian mould,
All of perfect die and metal, all the fairest of the fair,
All of workmanship unequalled, proved and valued everywhere
Both amongst our own Hellenes and Barbarians far away, These we use not: but the worthles pinchbeck coins of yesterday,
Vilest die and basest metal, now we always use instead. Even so, our sterling townsmen, nobly born and nobly bred,
Men of worth and rank and mettle, men of honourable fame,
Trained in every liberal science, choral dance and manly game,
These we treat with scorn and insult, but the strangers newliest come,
Worthless sons of worthless fathers, pinchbeck townsmen, yellowy scum,
Whom in earlier days the city hardly would have stooped to use
Even for her scapegoat victims, these for every task we choose.
O unwise and foolish people, yet to mend your ways begin;
Use again the good and useful: so hereafter, if ye win 'Twill be due to this your wisdom: if ye fall, at least 'twill be
Not a fall that brings dishonour, falling from a worthy tree. (Enter AEACUS, XANTHIAS and two attendants.)
AEACUS By Zeus the Saviour, quite the gentleman Your master is.
XANTHIAS Gentleman? I believe you. He's all for wine and women, is my master.
AEACUS But not to have flogged you, when the truth came out
That you, the slave, were passing off as master!
XANTHIAS He'd get the worst of that.
AEACUS Bravo! that's spoken Like a true slave: that's what I love myself.
XANTHIAS You love it, do you?
AEACUS Love it? I'm entranced When I can curse my lord behind his back.
XANTHIAS How about grumbling, when you have felt the stick,
And scurry out of doors?
AEACUS That's jolly too.
XANTHIAS How about prying?
AEACUS That beats everything,
XANTHIAS Great Kin-god Zeus! And what of overhearing Your master's secrets?
AEACUS What? I'm mad with joy.
XANTHIAS And blabbing them abroad?
AEACUS O heaven and earth! When I do that, I can't contain myself.
XANTHIAS Phoebus Apollo! clap your hand in mine, Kiss and be kissed: and prithee tell me this, Tell me by Zeus, our rascaldom's own god, What's all that noise within? What means this hubbub And row?
AEACUS That's Aeschylus and Euripides.
AEACUS Wonderful, wonderful things are going on. The dead are rioting, taking different sides.
XANTHIAS Why, what's the matter?
AEACUS There's a custom here With all the crafts, the good and noble crafts, That the chief master of art in each Shall have his dinner in the assembly hall, And sit by Pluto's side.
XANTHIAS I understand.
AEACUS Until another comes, more wise than he In the same art: then must the first give way.
XANTHIAS And how has this disturbed our Aeschylus?
AEACUS 'Twas he that occupied the tragic chair, As, in his craft, the noblest.
XANTHIAS Who does now?
AEACUS But when Euripides came down, he kept Flourishing off before the highwaymen, Thieves, burglars, parricides-these form our mob In Hades-till with listening to his twists And turns, and pleas and counterpleas, they went Mad on the man, and hailed him first and wisest: Elate with this, he claimed the tragic chair Where Aeschylus was seated.
XANTHIAS Wasn't he pelted?
AEACUS Not he: the populace clamoured out to try Which of the twain was wiser in his art.
XANTHIAS You mean the rascals?
AEACUS Aye, as high as heaven!
XANTHIAS But were there none to side with Aeschylus?
AEACUS Scanty and sparse the good, (regards the audience) the same as here.
XANTHIAS And what does Pluto now propose to do?
AEACUS He means to hold a tournament, and bring Their tragedies to the proof.
XANTHIAS But Sophocles, How came not he to claim the tragic chair?
AEACUS Claim it? Not he! When he came down, he kissed With reverence Aeschylus, and clasped his hand, And yielded willingly the chair to him. But now he's going, says Cleidemides, To sit third-man: and then if Aeschylus win, He'll stay content: if not, for his art's sake, He'll fight to the death against Euripides.
XANTHIAS Will it come off?
AEACUS O yes, by Zeus, directly. And then, I hear, will wonderful things be done, The art poetic will be weighed in scales.
XANTHIAS What I weigh out tragedy, like butcher's meat?
AEACUS Levels they'll bring, and measuring-tapes for words,
And moulded oblongs,
XANTHIAS Is it bricks they are making?
AEACUS Wedges and compasses: for Euripides Vows that he'll test the dramas, word by word.
XANTHIAS Aeschylus chafes at this, I fancy.
AEACUS Well, He lowered his brows, upglaring like a bull.
XANTHIAS And who's to be the judge?
AEACUS There came the rub. Skilled men were hard to find: for with the Athenians Aeschylus, somehow, did not hit it off,
XANTHIAS Too many burglars, I expect, he thought.
AEACUS And all the rest, he said, were trash and nonsense
To judge poetic wits. So then at last They chose your lord, an expert in the art. But we go in for when our lords are bent On urgent business, that means blows for us.
CHORUS O surely with terrible wrath will the thunder-voiced monarch be filled, When he sees his opponent beside him, the tonguester, the artifice-skilled,
Stand, whetting his tusks for the fight! O surely, his eyes rolling-fell Will with terrible madness be fraught I O then will be charging of plume-waving words with their wild-floating mane, And then will be whirling of splinters, and phrases smoothed down with the plane, When the man would the grand-stepping maxims, the language gigantic, repel Of the hero-creator of thought. There will his shaggy-born crest upbristle for anger and woe,
Horribly frowning and growling, his fury will launch at the foe
Huge-clamped masses of words, with exertion Titanic up-tearing
Great ship-timber planks for the fray. But here will the tongue be at work, uncoiling, word-testing, refining,
Sophist-creator of phrases, dissecting, detracting, maligning,
Shaking the envious bits, and with subtle analysis paring
The lung's large labour away.
Here apparently there is a complete change of scene, to the Hall of Pluto, with himself sitting on his throne, and DIONYSUS, AESCHYLUS, and the foreground.
EURIPIDES Don't talk to me; I won't give up the chair, I say I am better in the art than he.
DIONYSUS You hear him, Aeschylus: why don't you speak?
EURIPIDES He'll do the grand at first, the juggling trick
He used to play in all his tragedies.
DIONYSUS Come, my fine fellow, pray don't talk to big.
EURIPIDES I know the man, I've scanned him through and through,
A savage-creating stubborn-pulling fellow, Uncurbed, unfettered, uncontrolled of speech, Unperiphrastic, bombastiloquent.
AESCHYLUS Hah! sayest thou so, child of the garden quean
And this to me, thou chattery-babble-collector, Thou pauper-creating rags-and-patches-stitcher? Thou shalt abye it dearly!
DIONYSUS Pray, be still; Nor heat thy soul to fury, Aeschylus.
AESCHYLUS Not till I've made you see the sort of man This cripple-maker is who crows so loudly.
DIONYSUS Bring out a ewe, a black-fleeced ewe, my boys:
Here's a typhoon about to burst upon us.
AESCHYLUS Thou picker-up of Cretan monodies, Foisting thy tales of incest on the stage-
DIONYSUS Forbear, forbear, most honoured Aeschylus; And you, my poor Euripides, begone If you are wise, out of this pitiless hail, Lest with some heady word he crack your scull And batter out your brain-less Telephus. And not with passion, Aeschylus, but calmly Test and be tested. 'Tis not meet for poets To scold each other, like two baking-girls. But you go roaring like an oak on fire.
EURIPIDES I'm ready, I don't draw back one bit. I'll lash or, if he will, let him lash first The talk, the lays, the sinews of a play: Aye and my Peleus, aye and Aeolus. And Meleager, aye and Telephus.
DIONYSUS And what do you propose? Speak, Aeschylus.
AESCHYLUS I could have wished to meet him otherwhere. We fight not here on equal terms.
DIONYSUS Why not?
AESCHYLUS My poetry survived me: his died with him: He's got it here, all handy to recite. Howbeit, if so you wish it, so we'll have it.
DIONYSUS O bring me fire, and bring me frankincense. I'll pray, or e'er the clash of wits begin, To judge the strife with high poetic skill. Meanwhile (to the CHORUS) invoke the Muses with a song.
CHORUS O Muses, the daughters divine of Zeus, the immaculate Nine,
Who gaze from your mansions serene on intellects subtle and keen,
When down to the tournament lists, in bright-polished wit they descend,
With wrestling and turnings and twists in the battle of words to contend,
O come and behold what the two antagonist poets can do, Whose mouths are the swiftest to teach grand language and filings of speech: For now of their wits is the sternest encounter commencing in earnest.
DIONYSUS Ye two, put up your prayers before ye start.
AESCHYLUS Demeter, mistress, nourisher of my soul, O make me worthy of thy mystic rites!
DIONYSUS (to EURIPIDES) Now put on incense, you.
EURIPIDES Excuse me, no; My vows are paid to other gods than these.
DIONYSUS What, a new coinage of your own?
DIONYSUS Pray then to them, those private gods of yours.
EURIPIDES Ether, my pasture, volubly-rolling tongue, Intelligent wit and critic nostrils keen, O well and neatly may I trounce his plays!
CHORUS We also are yearning from these to be learning Some stately measure, some majestic grand Movement telling of conflicts nigh. Now for battle arrayed they stand, Tongues embittered, and anger high. Each has got a venturesome will, Each an eager and nimble mind; One will wield, with artistic skill, Clearcut phrases, and wit refined; Then the other, with words defiant, Stern and strong, like an angry giant Laying on with uprooted trees, Soon will scatter a world of these Superscholastic subtleties.
DIONYSUS Now then, commence your arguments, and mind you both display
True wit, not metaphors, nor things which any fool could say.
EURIPIDES As for myself, good people all, I'll tell you by-and-by My own poetic worth and claims; but first of all I'll try
To show how this portentous quack beguiled the silly fools
Whose tastes were nurtured, ere he came, in Phrynichus's schools.
He'd bring some single mourner on, seated and veiled, 'twould be
Achilles, say, or Niobe -the face you could not see- An empty show of tragic woe, who uttered not one thing.
DIONYSUS 'Tis true.
EURIPIDES Then in the Chorus came, and rattled off a string four continuous lyric odes: the mourner never stirred.
DIONYSUS I liked it too. I sometimes think that I those mutes preferred
To all your chatterers now-a-days.
EURIPIDES Because, if you must know, You were an ass.
DIONYSUS An ass, no doubt; what made him do it though?
EURIPIDES That was his quackery, don't you see, to set the audience guessing When Niobe would speak; meanwhile, the drama was progressing.
DIONYSUS The rascal, how he took me in! 'Twas shameful, was it not? (To AESCHYLUS) What makes you stamp and fidget so?
EURIPIDES He's catching it so hot. So when he had humbugged thus awhile, and now his wretched play
Was halfway through, a dozen words, great wild-bull words, he'd say,
Fierce Bugaboos, with bristling crests, and shaggy eyebrows too,
Which not a soul could understand.
AESCHYLUS O heavens!
DIONYSUS Be quiet, do.
EURIPIDES But not one single word was clear.
EURIPIDES 'Twas all Scamanders, moated camps, and griffin-eagles flashing In burnished copper on the shields, chivalric-precipice-high
Expressions, hard to comprehend.
DIONYSUS Aye, by the Powers, and Full many a sleepless night have spent in anxious thought, because
I'd find the tawny cock-horse out, what sort of bird it was!
AESCHYLUS It was a sign, you stupid dolt, engraved the ships upon.
DIONYSUS Eryxis I supposed it was, Philoxenus's son.
EURIPIDES Now really should a cock be brought into a tragic play?
AESCHYLUS You enemy gods and men, what was your practice, pray?
EURIPIDES No cock-horse in my plays, by Zeus, no goat-stag there you'll see, Such figures as are blazoned forth in Median tapestry. When first I took the art from you, bloated and swoln, poor thing,
With turgid gasconading words and heavy dieting, First I reduced and toned her down, and made her slim and neat
With wordlets and with exercise and poultices of beet, And next a dose of chatterjuice, distilled from books, I gave her,
And monodies she took, with sharp Cephisophon for flavour. I never used haphazard words, or plunged abruptly in; Who entered first explained at large the drama's origin And source.
AESCHYLUS Its source, I really trust, was better than your own.
EURIPIDES Then from the very opening lines no idleness was shown;
The mistress talked with all her might, the servant talked as much,
The master talked, the maiden talked, the beldame talked.
An outrage was not death your due?
EURIPIDES No, by Apollo, no: That was my democratic way.
DIONYSUS Ah, let that topic go. Your record is not there, my friend, particularly good.
EURIPIDES Then next I taught all these to speak.
AESCHYLUS You did so, and I would That ere such mischief you had wrought, your very rungs had split.
EURIPIDES Canons of verse I introduced, and neatly chiselled wit;
To look, to scan: to plot, to plan: to twist, to turn, to woo:
On all to spy; in all to pry.
AESCHYLUS You did: I say so too.
EURIPIDES I showed them scenes of common life, the things we know and see, Where any blunder would at once by all detected be. I never blustered on, or took their breath and wits away
By Cycnuses or Memnons clad in terrible array, With bells upon their horses' heads, the audience to dismay.
Look at his pupils, look at mine: and there the contrast view.
Uncouth Megaenetus is his, and rough Phormisius too; Great long-beard-lance-and-trumpet-men, flesh-tearers with the pine:
But natty smart Theramenes, and Cleitophon are mine.
DIONYSUS Theramenes? a clever man and wonderfully sly: Immerse him in a flood of ills, he'll soon be high and dry,
"A Kian with a kappa, sir, not Chian with a chi."
EURIPIDES I taught them all these knowing ways By chopping logic in my plays, And making all my speakers try To reason out the How and Why. So now the people trace the springs, The sources and the roots of things, And manage all their households to Far better than they used to do, Scanning and searching "What's amiss?" And, "Why was that?" And, "How is this?"
DIONYSUS Ay, truly, never now a man Comes home, but he begins to scan; And to his household loudly cries, "Why, where's my pitcher? What's the matter? 'Tis dead and my last year's platter. Who gnawed these olives? Bless the sprat, Who nibbled off the head of that? And where's the garlic vanished, pray, I purchased only yesterday?" -Whereas, of old, our stupid youths Would sit, with open mouths and eyes, Like any dull-brained Mammacouths.
CHORUS "All this thou beholdest, Achilles our boldest."
And what wilt thou reply? Draw tight the rein Lest that fiery soul of thine Whirl thee out of the listed plain, Past the olives, and o'er the line. Dire and grievous the charge he brings. See thou answer him, noble heart, Not with passionate bickerings. Shape thy course with a sailor's art, Reef the canvas, shorten the sails, Shift them edgewise to shun the gales. When the breezes are soft and low, Then, well under control, you'll go Quick and quicker to strike the foe. O first of all the Hellenic bards high loftily-towering verse to rear,
And tragic phrase from the dust to raise, pour forth thy fountain with right good cheer.
AESCHYLUS My wrath is hot at this vile mischance, and my spirit revolts at the thought that Must bandy words with a fellow like him: but lest he should vaunt that I can't reply- Come, tell me what are the points for which a noble poet our praise obtains.
EURIPIDES For his ready wit, and his counsels sage, and because the citizen folk he trains To be better townsmen and worthier men.
AESCHYLUS If then you have done the very reverse, Found noble-hearted and virtuous men, and altered them, each and all, for the worse, Pray what is the meed you deserve to get?
DIONYSUS Nay, ask not him. He deserves to die.
AESCHYLUS For just consider what style of men he received from me, great six-foot-high Heroical souls, who never would blench from a townsman's duties in peace or war; Not idle loafers, or low buffoons, or rascally scamps such as now they are. But men who were breathing spears and helms, and the snow-white plume in its crested pride, The greave, and the dart, and the warrior's heart in its sevenfold casing of tough bull-hide.
DIONYSUS He'll stun me, I know, with his armoury-work; this business is going from bad to worse.
EURIPIDES And how did you manage to make them so grand, exalted, and brave with your wonderful verse?
DIONYSUS Come, Aeschylus, answer, and don't stand mute in your self-willed pride and arrogant spleen.
AESCHYLUS A drama I wrote with the War-god filled.
DIONYSUS Its name?
AESCHYLUS 'Tis the Seven against
DIONYSUS O that was a scandalous thing you did! You have made the Thebans mightier men, More eager by far for the business of war. Now, therefore, receive this punch on the head.
AESCHYLUS Ah, ye might have practised the same yourselves, but ye turned to other pursuits instead. Then next the Persians I wrote, in praise of the noblest deed that the world can show, And each man longed for the victor's wreath, to fight and to vanquish his country's foe.
DIONYSUS I was pleased, I own, when I heard their moan for old Darius, their great king, dead; When they smote together their hands, like this, and "Evir alake" the Chorus said.
AESCHYLUS Aye, such are the poet's appropriate works: and just consider how all along From the very first they have wrought you good, the noble bards, the masters of song. First, Orpheus taught you religious rites, and from bloody murder to stay your hands: Musaeus healing and oracle lore; and Hesiod all the culture of lands,
The time to gather, the time to plough. And gat not Homer his glory divine By singing of valour, and honour, and right, and the sheen of the battle-extended line, The ranging of troops and the arming of men?
DIONYSUS O ay, but he didn't teach that, I opine, To Pantacles; when he was leading the show I couldn't imagine what he was at, He had fastened his helm on the top of his head, he was trying to fasten his plume upon that.
AESCHYLUS But others, many and brave, he taught, of whom was Lamachus, hero true; And thence my spirit the impress took, and many a lion-heart chief I drew, Patrocluses, Teucers, illustrious names; for I fain the citizen-folk would spur To stretch themselves to their measure and height, whenever the trumpet of war they hear. But Phaedras and Stheneboeas? No! no harlotry business deformed my plays. And none can say that ever I drew a love-sick woman in all my days.
EURIPIDES For you no lot or portion had got in Queen Aphrodite.
AESCHYLUS Thank Heaven for that. But ever on you and yours, my friend, the mighty goddess mightily sat; Yourself she cast to the ground at last.
DIONYSUS O ay, that uncommonly pat. You showed how cuckolds are made, and lo, you were struck yourself by the very same fate.
EURIPIDES But say, you cross-grained censor of mine, how my Stheneboeas could harm the state.
AESCHYLUS Full many a noble dame, the wife of a noble citizen, hemlock took, And died, unable the shame and sin of your Bellerophon-scenes to brook.
EURIPIDES Was then, I wonder, the tale I told of Phaedra's passionate love untrue?
AESCHYLUS Not so: but tales of incestuous vice the sacred poet should hide from view, Nor ever exhibit and blazon forth on the public stage to the public ken. For boys a teacher at school is found, but we, the poets, are teachers of men. We are hound things honest and pure to speak.
EURIPIDES And to speak great Lycabettuses, pray, And massive blocks of Parnassian rocks, is that things honest and pure to say? In human fashion we ought to speak.
AESCHYLUS Alas, poor witling, and can't you see That for mighty thoughts and heroic aims, the words themselves must appropriate be? And grander belike on the ear should strike the speech of heroes and godlike powers, Since even the robes that invest their limbs are statelier, grander robes than ours. Such was my plan: but when you began, you spoilt and degraded it all.
AESCHYLUS Your kings in tatters and rags you dressed, and brought them on, a beggarly show, To move, forsooth, our pity and ruth.
EURIPIDES And what was the harm, I should like to know.
AESCHYLUS No more will a wealthy citizen now equip for the state a galley of war. He wraps his limbs in tatters and rags, and whines he is "poor, too poor by far."
DIONYSUS But under his rags he is wearing a vest, as woolly and soft as a man could wish. Let him gull the state, and he's off to the mart; an eager, extravagant buyer of fish.
AESCHYLUS Moreover to prate, to harangue, to debate, is now the ambition of all in the state. Each exercise-ground is in consequence found deserted and empty: to evil repute Your lessons have brought our youngsters, and taught our sailors to challenge, discuss, and refute The orders they get from their captains and yet, when I was alive, I protest that the knaves Knew nothing at all, save for rations to call, and to sing "Rhyppapae" as they pulled through the waves.
DIONYSUS And bedad to let fly from their sterns in the eye of the fellow who tugged at the undermost oar, And a jolly young messmate with filth to besmirch, and to land for a filching adventure ashore; But now they harangue, and dispute, and won't row And idly and aimlessly float to and fro.
AESCHYLUS Of what ills is lie not the creator and cause?
Consider the scandalous scenes that he draws, His bawds, and his panders, his women who give Give birth in the sacredest shrine, Whilst others with brothers are wedded and bedded, And others opine That "not to be living" is truly "to live." And therefore our city is swarming to-day With clerks and with demagogue-monkeys, who play Their jackanape tricks at all times, in all places, Deluding the people of Athens; but none Has training enough in athletics to run With the torch in his hand at the races.
DIONYSUS By the Powers, you are right! At the Panathenaea
I laughed till I felt like a potsherd to see Pale, paunchy young gentleman pounding along, With his head butting forward, the last of the throng, In the direst of straits; and behold at the gates, The Ceramites flapped him, and smacked him, and slapped him,
In the ribs, and the loin, and the flank, and the groin,
And still, as they spanked him, he puffed and he panted,
Till at one mighty cuff, he discharged such a puff That he blew out his torch and levanted.
CHORUS Dread the battle, and stout the combat, mighty and manifold looms the war. Hard to decide is the fight they're waging, One like a stormy tempest raging, One alert in the rally and skirmish, clever to parry and foin and spar. Nay but don't be content to sit Always in one position only: many the fields for your keen-edged wit.
On then, wrangle in every way, Argue, battle, be flayed and
flay, Old and new from your stores
display, Yea, and strive with
venturesome daring something subtle and neat to say. Fear ye this, that to-day's spectators lack
the grace of artistic lore,
Lack the knowledge they need for taking All the points ye will soon be making? Fear it not: the alarm is groundless: that,
be sure, is the case no more. All have
fought the campaign ere this: Each a
book of the words is holding; never a single point they'll miss. Bright their natures, and now, I ween, Newly whetted, and
sharp, and keen. Dread not any defect of
EURIPIDES Well then I'll turn me to your prologues now,
Beginning first to test the first beginning Of this fine poet's plays. Why he's obscure Even in the enunciation of the facts.
DIONYSUS Which of them will you test?
EURIPIDES Many: but first Give us that famous one from the Oresteia.
AESCHYLUS "Grave Hermes, witnessing a father's power, Be thou my saviour and mine aid to-day, For here I come and hither I return."
DIONYSUS Any fault there?
EURIPIDES A dozen faults and more.
DIONYSUS Eh! why the lines are only three in all.
EURIPIDES But every one contains a score of faults.
DIONYSUS Now Aeschylus, keep silent; if you don't You won't get off with three iambic lines.
AESCHYLUS Silent for him!
DIONYSUS If my advice you'll take.
EURIPIDES Why, at first starting here's a fault skyhigh.
AESCHYLUS (to DIONYSUS) You see your folly?
DIONYSUS Have your way; I care not.
AESCHYLUS (to EURIPIDES) What is my fault?
EURIPIDES Begin the lines again.
AESCHYLUS "Grave Hermes, witnessing a father's power-"
EURIPIDES And this beside his murdered father's grave Orestes speaks?
AESCHYLUS I say not otherwise.
EURIPIDES Then does he mean that when his father fell By craft and violence at a woman's hand, The god of craft was witnessing the deed?
AESCHYLUS It was not he: it was the Helper Hermes He called the grave: and this he showed by adding It was his sire's prerogative he held.
EURIPIDES Why this is worse than all. If from his father
He held this office grave, why then-
DIONYSUS He was A graveyard rifler on his father's side.
AESCHYLUS Bacchus, the wine you drink is stale and fusty.
DIONYSUS Give him another: (to EURIPIDES) you, look out for faults.
AESCHYLUS "Be thou my saviour and mine aid to-day, For here I come, and hither I return."
EURIPIDES The same thing twice says clever Aeschylus.
DIONYSUS How twice?
EURIPIDES Why, just consider: I'll explain. "I come, says he; and "I return," says he: It's the same thing, to "come" and to "return."
DIONYSUS Aye, just as if you said, "Good fellow, tend me
A kneading trough: likewise, a trough to knead in."
AESCHYLUS It is not so, you everlasting talker, They're not the same, the words are right enough.
DIONYSUS How so? inform me how you use the words.
AESCHYLUS A man, not banished from his home, may "come"
To any land, with no especial chance. A home-bound exile both "returns" and "comes."
DIONYSUS O good, by Apollo! What do you say, Euripides, to that?
EURIPIDES I say Orestes never did "return." He came in secret: nobody recalled him.
DIONYSUS O good, by Hermes I (Aside) I've not the least suspicion what he means.
EURIPIDES Repeat another line.
DIONYSUS Ay, Aeschylus, Repeat one instantly: you, mark what's wrong.
AESCHYLUS "Now on this funeral mound I call my rather To hear, to hearken.
EURIPIDES There he is again. To "hear," to "hearken"; the same thing, exactly.
DIONYSUS Aye, but he's speaking to the dead, you knave,
Who cannot hear us though we call them thrice.
AESCHYLUS And how do you make your prologues?
EURIPIDES You shall hear; And if you find one single thing said twice, Or any useless padding, spit upon me.
DIONYSUS Well, fire away: I'm all agog to hear Your very accurate and faultless prologues.
EURIPIDES "A happy man was Oedipus at first-
AESCHYLUS Not so, by Zeus; a most unhappy man. Who, not yet born nor yet conceived, Apollo Foretold would be his father's murderer. How could he be a happy man at first?
EURIPIDES "Then he became the wretchedest of men."
AESCHYLUS Not so, by Zeus; he never ceased to be. No sooner born, than they exposed the babe, (And that in winter), in an earthen crock, Lest he should grow a man, and slay his father. Then with both ankles pierced and swoln, he limped Away to Polybus: still young, he married An ancient crone, and her his mother too. Then scratched out both his eyes.
DIONYSUS Happy indeed Had he been Erasinides's colleague!
EURIPIDES Nonsense; I say my prologues are firstrate.
AESCHYLUS Nay then, by Zeus, no longer line by line
I'll maul your phrases: but with heaven to aid
I'll smash your prologues with a bottle of oil.
EURIPIDES You mine with a bottle of oil?
AESCHYLUS With only one. You frame your prologues so that each and all Fit in with a "bottle of oil," or "coverlet-skin," Or "reticule-bag." I'll prove it here, and now.
EURIPIDES You'll prove it? You?
AESCHYLUS I will.
DIONYSUS Well then, begin.
EURIPIDES "Aegyptus, sailing with his fifty sons, As ancient legends
mostly tell the tale, Touching at
AESCHYLUS Lost his bottle of oil.
EURIPIDES Hang it, what's that? Confound that bottle of oil!
Give him another: let him try again.
EURIPIDES "Bacchus, who, clad in fawnskins, leaps and
bounds torch and thyrsus in the choral dance along
AESCHYLUS Lost his bottle of oil.
DIONYSUS Ah me, we are stricken-with that bottle again!
Pooh, pooh, that's nothing. I've a prologue He'll never tack his bottle of oil to this: "No man is blest in every single thing. One is of noble birth, but lacking means. Another, baseborn,"
AESCHYLUS Lost his bottle of oil.
DIONYSUS Lower your sails, my boy; This bottle of is going to blow a gale.
EURIPIDES O, by Demeter, I care one bit; Now from his hands I'll strike that bottle of oil.
DIONYSUS Go on then, go: but ware the bottle of oil.
EURIPIDES "Once Cadmus, quitting the Sidonian town, Agenor's offspring"
AESCHYLUS Lost his bottle of oil.
DIONYSUS O pray, my man, buy off that bottle of oil, Or else he'll smash our prologues all to bits.
EURIPIDES I buy of him?
DIONYSUS If my advice you'll take.
EURIPIDES No, no, I've many a prologue yet to say, To which he can't
tack on his bottle of oil. "Pelops,
the son of Tantalus, while driving His mares to
AESCHYLUS Lost his bottle of oil.
DIONYSUS There! he tacked on the bottle of oil again. O for heaven's sake, pay him its price, dear boy; You'll get it for an obol, spick and span.
EURIPIDES Not yet, by Zeus; I've plenty of prologues left.
"Oeneus once reaping"
AESCHYLUS Lost his bottle of oil.
EURIPIDES Pray let me finish one entire line first. "Oeneus once reaping an abundant harvest, Offering the firstfruits"
AESCHYLUS Lost his bottle of oil.
DIONYSUS What, in the act of offering? Fie! Who stole it?
EURIPIDES O don't keep bothering! Let him try with "Zeus, as by Truth's own voice the tale is told,"
DIONYSUS No, he'll cut in with "Lost his bottle of oil" bottle
Those bottles of oil on all your prologues seem To gather and grow, like styes upon the eye. Turn to his melodies now for goodness' sake.
EURIPIDES O I can easily show that he's a poor Melody-maker; makes all alike.
CHORUS What, O what will be done! Strange to think that he dare Blame the bard who has won, More than all in our days, Fame and praise for his lays, Lays so many and fair. Much I marvel to hear What the charge he will bring 'Gainst our tragedy king; Yea for himself do fear.
EURIPIDES Wonderful lays! O yes, you'll see directly. I'll cut down all his metrical strains to one.
DIONYSUS And I, I'll take some pebbles, and keep count. (A slight pause, during which the music of a flute is heard. The music continues to the end of line (EURIPIDES-Hush! the bee...) as an accompaniment to the recitative.)
EURIPIDES "Lord of Phthia, Achilles, why hearing the voice of the hero-dividing Hah! smiting! approachest thou not to the rescue? We, by the lake who abide, are adoring our ancestor Hermes.
Hah! smiting! approachest thou not to the rescue?"
DIONYSUS O Aeschylus, twice art thou smitten I
EURIPIDES "Hearken to me, great king; yea, hearken Atreides, thou noblest of the Achaeans. Hah! smiting! approachest thou not to the rescue?
DIONYSUS Thrice, Aeschylus, thrice art thou smitten!
EURIPIDES "Hush! the
bee-wardens are here: they will quickly the
Hah! smiting! approachest thou not to the rescue?"
DIONYSUS O Zeus and King, the terrible lot of smittings!
I'll to the bath: I'm very sure my kidneys Are quite inflamed and swoln with all these smitings.
EURIPIDES Wait till you've heard another batch of lays Culled from his lyre-accompanied melodies.
DIONYSUS Go on then, go: but no more smitings, please.
EURIPIDES "How the twin-throned powers of
O phlattothrattophlattothratt launcheth fierce with brand and hand the avengers the terrible eagle. O phlattothrattophlattothrat! So for the swift-winged hounds of the air he provided a booty.
O phlattothrattophlattothrat! The throng down-bearing on Aias. O phlattothrattophlattotbrat!"
DIONYSUS Whence comes that
AESCHYLUS From noblest source for noblest ends brought them,
Unwilling in the Muses' holy field The self-same flowers as Phrynichus to cull. But he from all things rotten draws his lays, From Carian flutings, catches of Meletus, Dance-music, dirges. You shall hear directly. Bring me the lyre. Yet wherefore need a lyre For songs like these? Where's she that bangs and jangles
Her castanets? Euripides's Muse, Present yourself: fit goddess for fit verse.
DIONYSUS The Muse herself can't be a wanton? No!
AESCHYLUS Halycons, who by the ever-rippling Waves of the sea are babbling, Dewing your plumes with the drops that fall From wings in the salt spray dabbling. Spiders, ever with twir-r-r-r-r-rling fingers Weaving the warp and the woof, Little, brittle, network, fretwork, Under the coigns of the roof. The minstrel shuttle's care. Where in the front of the dark-prowed ships Yarely the flute-loving dolphin skips. Races here and oracles there. And the joy of the young vines smiling, And the tendril of grapes, care-beguiling. O embrace me, my child, O embrace me. (To DIONYSUS) You see this foot?
DIONYSUS I do.
AESCHYLUS And this?
DIONYSUS And that one too.
(to EURIPIDES) You, such stuff who compile, Dare my songs to upbraid; You, whose songs in the style Of
Draw me the dew of the water, and heat it to boiling and steam;
So will I wash me away the ill effects of my dream. God of the sea! My dream's come true. Ho, lodgers, ho, This portent view. Glyce has vanished, carrying off my cock, My cock that
crew! O Mania, help! O Oreads of the rock Pursue! pursue! For I, poor
girl, was working within, Holding my
distaff heavy and full,
Twir-r-r-r-r-rling my hand as the threads I spin, Weaving an excellent bobbin of wool; Thinking 'To-morrow I'll go to the fair, In the dusk of the morn, and be selling it
there.' But he to the blue up flew, up
flew, on the lightliest tips of his wings outspread; To me he bequeathed but woe, but woe, And tears, sad tears, from my eyes
o'erflow, Which I, the bereaved, must
shed, must shed. O children of Ida, sons
DIONYSUS Enough of both your odes.
AESCHYLUS Enough for me. Now would I bring the fellow to the scales. That, that alone, shall test our poetry now, And prove whose words are weightiest, his or mine.
DIONYSUS Then both come hither, since I needs must weigh
The art poetic like a pound of cheese. Here a large balance is brought out and placed upon the stage.
CHORUS O the labour these wits go through I O the wild, extravagant, new, Wonderful things they are going to do! Who but they would ever have thought of it? Why, if a man had happened to meet me Out in the street, and intelligence brought of it, I should have thought he was trying to cheat me; Thought that his story was false and deceiving. That were a tale I could never believe in.
DIONYSUS Each of you stand beside his scale.
AESCHYLUS AND EURIPIDES We're here.
DIONYSUS And grasp it firmly whilst ye speak your lines,
Each holds his own scale steady while he speaks his line into it.
And don't let go until I cry "Cuckoo."
AESCHYLUS AND EURIPIDES Ready!
DIONYSUS Now speak your lines into the scale.
EURIPIDES "O that the Argo had not winged her way-"
AESCHYLUS "River Spercheius, cattle-grazing haunts-"
DIONYSUS Cuckoo! let go. O look, by far the lowest His scale sinks down.
EURIPIDES Why, how came that about?
DIONYSUS He threw a river in, like some wool-seller Wetting his wool, to make it weigh the more. But threw in a light and winged word.
EURIPIDES Come, let him match another verse with mine.
DIONYSUS Each to his scale.
AESCHYLUS AND EURIPIDES We're ready.
DIONYSUS Speak your lines.
EURIPIDES "Persuasion's only shrine is eloquent speech."
AESCHYLUS "Death loves not gifts, alone amongst the gods."
DIONYSUS Let go, let go. Down goes his scale again. He threw in Death, the heaviest ill of all.
EURIPIDES And I Persuasion, the most lovely word.
DIONYSUS A vain and empty sound, devoid of sense. Think of some heavier-weighted line of yours, To drag your scale down: something strong and big.
EURIPIDES Where have I got one? Where? Let's see.
DIONYSUS I'll tell you. "Achilles threw two singles and a four." Come, speak your lines: this is your last set-to.
EURIPIDES "In his right hand he grasped an iron-clamped mace."
AESCHYLUS "Chariot on chariot, corpse on corpse was hurled."
DIONYSUS There now! again he has done you.
EURIPIDES Done me? How?
DIONYSUS He threw two chariots and two corpses in; Five-score Egyptians could not lift that weight.
AESCHYLUS No more of "line for line"; let him-himself, His children, wife, Cephisophon-get in, With all his books collected in his arms, Two lines of mine shall overweigh the lot.
DIONYSUS Both are my friends; I can't decide between them:
I don't desire to be at odds with either: One is so clever, one delights me so.
PLUTO (coming forward) Then you'll effect nothing for which you came?
DIONYSUS And how, if I decide?
PLUTO Then take the winner; So will your journey not be made in vain.
DIONYSUS Heaven bless your Highness! Listen, I came down
After a poet.
EURIPIDES To what end? The city, saved, may keep her choral games. Now then, whichever of you two shall best Advise the city, he shall come with me. And first of Alcibiades, let each Say what he thinks; the city travails sore.
DIONYSUS What does she think herself about him? She loves, and hates, and longs to have him back. But give me your advice about the man.
EURIPIDES I loathe a townsman who is slow to aid, And swift to hurt, his town: who ways and means Finds for himself, but finds not for the state.
DIONYSUS Poseidon, but that's smart! (to AESCHYLUS) And what say you?
AESCHYLUS 'Twere best to rear no lion in the state: But having reared, 'tis best to humour him.
DIONYSUS By Zeus the Saviour, still I can't decide. One is so clever, and so clear the other. But once again. Let each in turn declare What plan of safety for the state ye've got.
EURIPIDES (First with Cinesias wing Cleocritus, Then zephyrs waft them o'er the watery plain.
DIONYSUS A funny sight, I own: but where's the sense?
EURIPIDES If, when the fleets engage, they holding cruets
Should rain down vinegar in the foemen's eyes,) I know, and I can tell you.
DIONYSUS Tell away.
EURIPIDES When things, mistrusted now, shall trusted be,
And trusted things, mistrusted.
DIONYSUS How! I don't Quite comprehend. Be clear, and not so clever.
EURIPIDES If we mistrust those citizens of ours Whom now we trust, and those employ whom now We don't employ, the city will be saved. If on our present tack we fail, we surely Shall find salvation in the opposite course.
DIONYSUS Good, O Palamedes! Good, you genius you. Is this your cleverness or Cephisophon's?
EURIPIDES This is my own: the cruet-plan was his.
DIONYSUS (to AESCHYLUS) Now, you.
AESCHYLUS But tell me whom the city uses. The good and useful?
DIONYSUS What are you dreaming of? She hates and loathes them.
AESCHYLUS Does she love the bad?
DIONYSUS Not love them, no: she uses them perforce.
AESCHYLUS How can one save a city such as this, Whom neither frieze nor woollen tunic suits?
DIONYSUS O, if to earth you rise, find out some way.
AESCHYLUS There will I speak: I cannot answer here.
DIONYSUS Nay, nay; send up your guerdon from below.
AESCHYLUS When they shall count the enemy's soil their And theirs the enemy's: when they know that ships Are their true wealth, their so-called wealth delusion.
DIONYSUS Aye, but the justices suck that down, you know.
PLUTO Now then, decide.
DIONYSUS I will; and thus I'll do it. I'll choose the man in whom my soul delights.
EURIPIDES O, recollect the gods by whom you swore You'd take me home again; and choose your friends.
DIONYSUS 'Twas my tongue swore; my choice is- Aeschylus.
EURIPIDES Hah! what have you done?
DIONYSUS Done? Given the victor's prize To Aeschylus; why not?
EURIPIDES And do you dare Look in my face, after that shameful deed?
DIONYSUS What's shameful, if the audience think not so? Have you no heart? Wretch, would you leave me dead?
DIONYSUS Who knows if death be life, and life be death,
And breath be mutton broth, and sleep a sheepskin?
PLUTO Now, Dionysus, come ye in,
DIONYSUS What for?
PLUTO And sup before ye go.
DIONYSUS A bright idea. I'faith, I'm nowise indisposed for that. (Exeunt AESCHYLUS, EURIPIDES, PLUTO, and DIONYSUS.)
CHORUS Blest the man who possesses Keen intelligent mind. This full often we find. He, the bard of renown, Now to earth reascends, Goes, a joy to his town, Goes, a joy to his friends, Just because he possesses Keen intelligent mind. Right it is and befitting, Not, by Socrates sitting, Idle talk to pursue, Stripping tragedy-art of All things noble and true. Surely the mind to school Fine-drawn quibbles to seek, Fine-set phrases to speak, Is but the part of a fool (Re-enter PLUTO and AESCHYLUS.)
PLUTO Farewell then Aeschylus, great and wise, Go, save our state by the maxims rare Of thy noble thought; and the fools chastise, For many a fool dwells there. And this (handing him a rope) to Cleophon give, my friend,
And this to the revenue-raising crew, Nichomachus, Myrmex, next I send, And this to Archenomus too. And bid them all that without delay, To my realm of the dead they hasten away. For if they loiter above, I swear I'll come myself and arrest them there. And branded and fettered the slaves shall With the vilest rascal in all the town, Adeimantus, son of Leucolophus, down, Down, down to the darkness below.
AESCHYLUS I take the mission. This chair of mine Meanwhile to Sophocles here commit, (For I count him next in our craft divine,) Till I come once more by thy side to sit.
But as for that rascally scoundrel there, That low buffoon, that worker of ill, O let him not sit in my vacant chair, Not even against his will.
PLUTO (to the CHORUS) Escort him up with your mystic throngs,
While the holy torches quiver and blaze. Escort him up with his own sweet gongs, And his noble festival lays.
CHORUS First, as the poet triumphant is passing away to the light,
Grant him success on his journey, ye powers that are ruling below.
Grant that he find for the city good counsels to guide her aright;
So we at last shall be freed from the anguish, the fear, and the woe,
Freed from the onsets of war. Let Cleophon now and his band
Copyright statement: The Internet Classics Archive by Daniel C. Stevenson, Web Atomics. World Wide Web presentation is copyright (C) 1994-2000, Daniel C. Stevenson, Web Atomics.