The Clouds by Aristophanes
Strepsiades (sitting up in his bed). Ah me! Ah me! O King Jupiter, of what a terrible length the nights are! Will it never be day? And yet long since I heard the cock. My domestics are snoring; but they would not have done so heretofore! May you perish then, O war! For many reasons; because I may not even punish my domestics. Neither does this excellent youth awake through the night; but takes his ease, wrapped up in five blankets. Well, if it is the fashion, let us snore wrapped up.
[Lies down, and then almost immediately starts up again.]
But I am not able, miserable man, to sleep, being tormented by my expenses, and my stud of horses, and my debts, through this son of mine. He with his long hair, is riding horses and driving curricles, and dreaming of horses; while I am driven to distraction, as I see the moon bringing on the twentieths; for the interest is running on. Boy! Light a lamp, and bring forth my tablets, that I may take them and read to how many I am indebted, and calculate the interest.
[Enter boy with a light and tablets.]
Come, let me see; what do I owe? Twelve minae to Pasias. Why twelve minae to Pasias? Why did I borrow them? When I bought the blood-horse. Ah me, unhappy! Would that it had had its eye knocked out with a stone first!
Phidippides (talking in his sleep). You are acting unfairly, Philo! Drive on your own course.
Strepsiades. This is the bane that has destroyed me; for even in his sleep he dreams about horsemanship.
Phidippides. How many courses will the war-chariots run?
Strepsiades. Many courses do you drive me, your father. But what debt came upon me after Pasias? Three minae to Amynias for a little chariot and pair of wheels.
Phidippides. Lead the horse home, after having given him a good rolling.
Strepsiades. O foolish youth, you have rolled me out of my possessions; since I have been cast in suits, and others say that they will have surety given them for the interest.
Phidippides. (awakening) Pray, father, why are you peevish, and toss about the whole night?
Strepsiades. A bailiff out of the bedclothes is biting me.
Phidippides. Suffer me, good sir, to sleep a little.
Strepsiades. Then, do you sleep on; but know that all these debts will turn on your head.
[Phidippides falls asleep again.]
Alas! Would that the match-maker had perished miserably, who induced me to marry your mother. For a country life used to be most agreeable to me, dirty, untrimmed, reclining at random, abounding in bees, and sheep, and oil-cake. Then I, a rustic, married a niece of Megacles, the son of Megacles, from the city, haughty, luxurious, and Coesyrafied. When I married her, I lay with her redolent of new wine, of the cheese-crate, and abundance of wool; but she, on the contrary, of ointment, saffron, wanton-kisses, extravagance, gluttony, and of Colias and Genetyllis. I will not indeed say that she was idle; but she wove. And I used to show her this cloak by way of a pretext and say "Wife, you weave at a great rate."
Servant. We have no oil in the lamp.
Strepsiades. Ah me! Why did you light the thirsty lamp? Come hither that you may weep!
Servant. For what, pray, shall I weep?
Strepsiades. Because you put in one of the thick wicks.
[Servant runs out]
After this, when this son was born to us, to me, forsooth, and to my excellent wife, we squabbled then about the name: for she was for adding hippos to the name, Xanthippus, or Charippus, or Callipides; but I was for giving him the name of his grandfather, Phidonides. For a time therefore we disputed; and then at length we agreed, and called him Phidippides. She used to take this son and fondle him, saying, "When you, being grown up, shall drive your chariot to the city, like Megacles, with a xystis." But I used to say, "Nay, rather, when dressed in a leathern jerkin, you shall drive goats from Phelleus, like your father." He paid no attention to my words, but poured a horse-fever over my property. Now, therefore, by meditating the whole night, I have discovered one path for my course extraordinarily excellent; to which if I persuade this youth I shall be saved. But first I wish to awake him. How then can I awake him in the most agreeable manner? How? Phidippides, my little Phidippides?
Phidippides. What, father?
Strepsiades. Kiss me, and give me your right hand!
Phidippides. There. What's the matter?
Strepsiades. Tell me, do you love me?
Phidippides. Yes, by this Equestrian Neptune.
Strepsiades. Nay, do not by any means mention this Equestrian to me, for this god is the author of my misfortunes. But, if you really love me from your heart, my son, obey me.
Phidippides. In what then, pray, shall I obey you?
Strepsiades. Reform your habits as quickly as possible, and go and learn what I advise.
Phidippides. Tell me now, what do you prescribe?
Strepsiades. And will you obey me at all?
Phidippides. By Bacchus, I will obey you.
Strepsiades. Look this way then! Do you see this little door and little house?
Phidippides. I see it. What then, pray, is this, father?
Strepsiades. This is a thinking-shop of wise spirits. There dwell men who in speaking of the heavens persuade people that it is an oven, and that it encompasses us, and that we are the embers. These men teach, if one give them money, to conquer in speaking, right or wrong.
Phidippides. Who are they?
Strepsiades. I do not know the name accurately. They are minute philosophers, noble and excellent.
Phidippides. Bah! They are rogues; I know them. You mean the quacks, the pale-faced wretches, the bare-footed fellows, of whose numbers are the miserable Socrates and Chaerephon.
Strepsiades. Hold! Hold! Be silent! Do not say anything foolish. But, if you have any concern for your father's patrimony, become one of them, having given up your horsemanship.
Phidippides. I would not, by Bacchus, even if you were to give me the pheasants which Leogoras rears!
Strepsiades. Go, I entreat you, dearest of men, go and be taught.
Phidippides. Why, what shall I learn?
Strepsiades. They say that among them are both the two causes--the better cause, whichever that is, and the worse: they say that the one of these two causes, the worse, prevails, though it speaks on the unjust side. If, therefore you learn for me this unjust cause, I would not pay any one, not even an obolus of these debts, which I owe at present on your account.
Phidippides. I can not comply; for I should not dare to look upon the knights, having lost all my colour.
Strepsiades. Then, by Ceres, you shall not eat any of my good! Neither you, nor your blood-horse; but I will drive you out of my house to the crows.
Phidippides. My uncle Megacles will not permit me to be without a horse. But I'll go in, and pay no heed to you.
Strepsiades. Though fallen, still I will not lie prostrate: but having prayed to the gods, I will go myself to the thinking-shop and get taught. How, then, being an old man, shall I learn the subtleties of refined disquisitions? I must go. Why thus do I loiter and not knock at the door?
[Knocks at the door.]
Boy! Little boy!
Disciple (from within). Go to the devil! Who it is that knocked at the door?
Strepsiades. Strepsiades, the son of Phidon, of Cicynna.
Disciple. You are a stupid fellow, by Jove! who have kicked against the door so very carelessly, and have caused the miscarriage of an idea which I had conceived.
Strepsiades. Pardon me; for I dwell afar in the country. But tell me the thing which has been made to miscarry.
Disciple. It is not lawful to mention it, except to disciples.
Strepsiades. Tell it, then, to me without fear; for I here am come as a disciple to the thinking-shop.
Disciple. I will tell you; but you must regard these as mysteries. Socrates lately asked Chaerephon about a flea, how many of its own feet it jumped; for after having bit the eyebrow of Chaerephon, it leaped away onto the head of Socrates.
Strepsiades. How then did he measure this?
Disciple. Most cleverly. He melted some wax; and then took the flea and dipped its feet in the wax; and then a pair of Persian slippers stuck to it when cooled. Having gently loosened these, he measured back the distance.
Strepsiades. O King Jupiter! What subtlety of thought!
Disciple. What then would you say if you heard another contrivance of Socrates?
Strepsiades. Of what kind? Tell me, I beseech you!
Disciple. Chaerephon the Sphettian asked him whether he thought gnats buzzed through the mouth or the breech.
Strepsiades. What, then, did he say about the gnat?
Disciple. He said the intestine of the gnat was narrow and that the wind went forcibly through it, being slender, straight to the breech; and then that the rump, being hollow where it is adjacent to the narrow part, resounded through the violence of the wind.
Strepsiades. The rump of the gnats then is a trumpet! Oh, thrice happy he for his sharp-sightedness! Surely a defendant might easily get acquitted who understands the intestine of the gnat.
Disciple. But he was lately deprived of a great idea by a lizard.
Strepsiades. In what way? Tell me.
Disciple. As he was investigating the courses of the moon and her revolutions, then as he was gaping upward a lizard in the darkness dropped upon him from the roof.
Strepsiades. I am amused at a lizard's having dropped on Socrates.
Disciple. Yesterday evening there was no supper for us.
Strepsiades. Well. What then did he contrive for provisions?
Disciple. He sprinkled fine ashes on the table, and bent a little spit, and then took it as a pair of compasses and filched a cloak from the Palaestra.
Strepsiades. Why then do we admire Thales? Open open quickly the thinking-shop, and show to me Socrates as quickly as possible. For I desire to be a disciple. Come, open the door.
[The door of the thinking-shop opens and the pupils of Socrates are seen all with their heads fixed on the ground, while Socrates himself is seen suspended in the air in a basket.]
O Hercules, from what country are these wild beasts?
Disciple. What do you wonder at? To what do they seem to you to be like?
Strepsiades. To the Spartans who were taken at Pylos. But why in the world do these look upon the ground?
Disciple. They are in search of the things below the earth.
Strepsiades. Then they are searching for roots. Do not, then, trouble yourselves about this; for I know where there are large and fine ones. Why, what are these doing, who are bent down so much?
Disciple. These are groping about in darkness under Tartarus.
Strepsiades. Why then does their rump look toward heaven?
Disciple. It is getting taught astronomy alone by itself.
[Turning to the pupils.]
But go in, lest he meet with us.
Strepsiades. Not yet, not yet; but let them remain, that I may communicate to them a little matter of my own.
Disciple. It is not permitted to them to remain without in the open air for a very long time.
[The pupils retire.]
Strepsiades. (discovering a variety of mathematical instruments) Why, what is this, in the name of heaven? Tell me.
Disciple. This is Astronomy.
Strepsiades. But what is this?
Strepsiades. What then is the use of this?
Disciple. To measure out the land.
Strepsiades.What belongs to an allotment?
Disciple. No, but the whole earth.
Strepsiades. You tell me a clever notion; for the contrivance is democratic and useful.
Disciple. (pointing to a map) See, here's a map of the whole earth. Do you see? This is Athens.
Strepsiades. What say you? I don't believe you; for I do not see the Dicasts sitting.
Disciple. Be assured that this is truly the Attic territory.
Strepsiades. Why, where are my fellow-tribesmen of Cicynna?
Disciple. Here they are. And Euboea here, as you see, is stretched out a long way by the side of it to a great distance.
Strepsiades. I know that; for it was stretched by us and Pericles. But where is Lacedaemon?
Disciple. Where is it? Here it is.
Strepsiades. How near it is to us! Pay great attention to this, to remove it very far from us.
Disciple. By Jupiter, it is not possible.
Strepsiades. Then you will weep for it.
[Looking up and discovering Socrates.]
Come, who is this man who is in the basket?
Strepsiades. Who's "Himself"?
Strepsiades. O Socrates! Come, you sir, call upon him loudly for me.
Disciple. Nay, rather, call him yourself; for I have no leisure.
Strepsiades. Socrates! My little Socrates!
Socrates. Why callest thou me, thou creature of a day?
Strepsiades. First tell me, I beseech you, what are you doing.
Socrates. I am walking in the air, and speculating about the sun.
Strepsiades. And so you look down upon the gods from your basket, and not from the earth?
Socrates. For I should not have rightly discovered things celestial if I had not suspended the intellect, and mixed the thought in a subtle form with its kindred air. But if, being on the ground, I speculated from below on things above, I should never have discovered them. For the earth forcibly attracts to itself the meditative moisture. Water-cresses also suffer the very same thing.
Strepsiades. What do you say? Does meditation attract the moisture to the water-cresses? Come then, my little Socrates, descend to me, that you may teach me those things, for the sake of which I have come.
[Socrates lowers himself and gets out of the basket.]
Socrates. And for what did you come?
Strepsiades. Wishing to learn to speak; for by reason of usury, and most ill-natured creditors, I am pillaged and plundered, and have my goods seized for debt.
Socrates. How did you get in debt without observing it?
Strepsiades. A horse-disease consumed me--terrible at eating. But teach me the other one of your two causes, that which pays nothing; and I will swear by the gods, I will pay down to you whatever reward you exact of me.
Socrates. By what gods will you swear? For, in the first place, gods are not a current coin with us.
Strepsiades. By what do you swear? By iron money, as in Byzantium?
Socrates. Do you wish to know clearly celestial matters, what they rightly are?
Strepsiades. Yes, by Jupiter, if it be possible!
Socrates. And to hold converse with the Clouds, our divinities?
Strepsiades. By all means.
Socrates. (with great solemnity). Seat yourself, then, upon the sacred couch.
Strepsiades. Well, I am seated!
Socrates. Take, then, this chaplet.
Strepsiades. For what purpose a chaplet? Ah me! Socrates, see that you do not sacrifice me like Athamas!
Strepsiades. No; we do all these to those who get initiated.
Strepsiades. Then what shall I gain, pray?
Socrates. You shall become in oratory a tricky knave, a thorough rattle, a subtle speaker. But keep quiet.
Strepsiades. By Jupiter! You will not deceive me; for if I am besprinkled, I shall become fine flour.
Socrates. It becomes the old man to speak words of good omen, and to hearken to my prayer. O sovereign King, immeasurable Air, who keepest the earth suspended, and through bright Aether, and ye august goddesses, the Clouds, sending thunder and lightning, arise, appear in the air, O mistresses, to your deep thinker!
Strepsiades. Not yet, not yet, till I wrap this around me lest I be wet through. To think of my having come from home without even a cap, unlucky man!
Socrates. Come then, ye highly honoured Clouds, for a display to this man. Whether ye are sitting upon the sacred snow-covered summits of Olympus, or in the gardens of Father Ocean form a sacred dance with the Nymphs, or draw in golden pitchers the streams of the waters of the Nile, or inhabit the Maeotic lake, or the snowy rock of Mimas, hearken to our prayer, and receive the sacrifice, and be propitious to the sacred rites.
[The following song is heard at a distance, accompanied by loud claps of thunder.]
Chorus. Eternal Clouds! Let us arise to view with our dewy, clear-bright nature, from loud-sounding Father Ocean to the wood-crowned summits of the lofty mountains, in order that we may behold clearly the far-seen watch-towers, and the fruits, and the fostering, sacred earth, and the rushing sounds of the divine rivers, and the roaring, loud-sounding sea; for the unwearied eye of Aether sparkles with glittering rays. Come, let us shake off the watery cloud from our immortal forms and survey the earth with far-seeing eye.
Socrates. O ye greatly venerable Clouds, ye have clearly heard me when I called.
[Turning to Strepsiades.]
Did you hear the voice, and the thunder which bellowed at the same time, feared as a god?
Strepsiades. I too worship you, O ye highly honoured, and am inclined to reply to the thundering, so much do I tremble at them and am alarmed. And whether it be lawful, or be not lawful, I have a desire just now to ease myself.
Socrates. Don't scoff, nor do what these poor-devil-poets do, but use words of good omen, for a great swarm of goddesses is in motion with their songs.
Chorus. Ye rain-bringing virgins, let us come to the fruitful land of Pallas, to view the much-loved country of Cecrops, abounding in brave men; where is reverence for sacred rites not to be divulged; where the house that receives the initiated is thrown open in holy mystic rites; and gifts to the celestial gods; and high-roofed temples, and statues; and most sacred processions in honour of the blessed gods; and well-crowned sacrifices to the gods, and feasts, at all seasons; and with the approach of spring the Bacchic festivity, and the rousings of melodious choruses, and the loud-sounding music of flutes.
Strepsiades. Tell me, O Socrates, I beseech you, by Jupiter, who are these that have uttered this grand song? Are they some heroines?
Socrates. By no means; but heavenly Clouds, great divinities to idle men; who supply us with thought and argument, and intelligence and humbug, and circumlocution, and ability to hoax, and comprehension.
Strepsiades. On this account therefore my soul, having heard their voice, flutters, and already seeks to discourse subtilely, and to quibble about smoke, and having pricked a maxim with a little notion, to refute the opposite argument. So that now I eagerly desire, if by any means it be possible, to see them palpably.
Socrates. Look, then, hither, toward Mount Parnes; for now I behold them descending gently.
Strepsiades. Pray where? Show me.
Socrates. See! There they come in great numbers through the hollows and thickets; there, obliquely.
Strepsiades. What's the matter? For I can't see them.
Socrates. By the entrance.
Strepsiades. Now at length with difficulty I just see them.
Socrates. Now at length you assuredly see them, unless you have your eyes running pumpkins.
Strepsiades. Yes, by Jupiter! O highly honoured Clouds, for now they cover all things.
Socrates. Did you not, however, know, nor yet consider, these to be goddesses?
Strepsiades. No, by Jupiter! But I thought them to be mist, and dew, and smoke.
Socrates. For you do not know, by Jupiter! that these feed very many sophists, Thurian soothsayers, practisers of medicine, lazy-long-haired-onyx-ring-wearers, song-twisters for the cyclic dances, and meteorological quacks. They feed idle people who do nothing, because such men celebrate them in verse.
Strepsiades. For this reason, then, they introduced into their verses "the dreadful impetuosity of the moist, whirling-bright clouds"; and the "curls of hundred-headed Typho"; and the "hard-blowing tempests"; and then "aerial, moist"; "crooked-clawed birds, floating in air"' and "the showers of rain from dewy Clouds." And then, in return for these, they swallow "slices of great, fine mullets, and bird's-flesh of thrushes."
Socrates. Is it not just, however, that they should have their reward, on account of these?
Strepsiades. Tell me, pray, if they are really clouds, what ails them, that they resemble mortal women? For they are not such.
Socrates. Pray, of what nature are they?
Strepsiades. I do not clearly know: at any rate they resemble spread-out fleeces, and not women, by Jupiter! Not a bit; for these have noses.
Socrates. Answer, then, whatever I ask you.
Strepsiades. Then say quickly what you wish.
Socrates. Have you ever, when you; looked up, seen a cloud like to a centaur, or a panther, or a wolf, or a bull?
Strepsiades. By Jupiter, have I! But what of that?
Socrates. They become all things, whatever they please. And then if they see a person with long hair, a wild one of these hairy fellows, like the son of Xenophantes, in derision of his folly, they liken themselves to centaurs.
Strepsiades. Why, what, if they should see Simon, a plunderer of the public property, what do they do?
Socrates. They suddenly become wolves, showing up his disposition.
Strepsiades. For this reason, then, for this reason, when they yesterday saw Cleonymus the recreant, on this account they became stags, because they saw this most cowardly fellow.
Socrates. And now too, because they saw Clisthenes, you observe, on this account they became women.
Strepsiades. Hail therefore, O mistresses! And now, if ever ye did to any other, to me also utter a voice reaching to heaven, O all-powerful queens.
Chorus. Hail, O ancient veteran, hunter after learned speeches! And thou, O priest of most subtle trifles! Tell us what you require? For we would not hearken to any other of the recent meteorological sophists, except to Prodicus; to him, on account of his wisdom and intelligence; and to you, because you walk proudly in the streets, and cast your eyes askance, and endure many hardships with bare feet, and in reliance upon us lookest supercilious.
Strepsiades. O Earth, what a voice! How holy and dignified and wondrous!
Socrates. For, in fact, these alone are goddesses; and all the rest is nonsense.
Strepsiades. But come, by the Earth, is not Jupiter, the Olympian, a god?
Socrates. What Jupiter? Do not trifle. There is no Jupiter.
Strepsiades. What do you say? Who rains then? For first of all explain this to me.
Socrates. These to be sure. I will teach you it by powerful evidence. Come, where have you ever seen him raining at any time without Clouds? And yet he ought to rain in fine weather, and these be absent.
Strepsiades. By Apollo, of a truth you have rightly confirmed this by your present argument. And yet, before this, I really thought that Jupiter caused the rain. But tell me who is it that thunders. This makes me tremble.
Socrates. These, as they roll, thunder.
Strepsiades. In what way? you all-daring man!
Socrates. When they are full of much water, and are compelled to be borne along, being necessarily precipitated when full of rain, then they fall heavily upon each other and burst and clap.
Strepsiades. Who is it that compels them to borne along? Is it not Jupiter?
Socrates. By no means, but aethereal Vortex.
Strepsiades. Vortex? It had escaped my notice that Jupiter did not exist, and that Vortex now reigned in his stead. But you have taught me nothing as yet concerning the clap and the thunder.
Socrates. Have you not heard me, that I said that the Clouds, when full of moisture, dash against each other and clap by reason of their density?
Strepsiades. Come, how am I to believe this?
Socrates. I'll teach you from your own case. Were you ever, after being stuffed with broth at the Panathenaic festival, then disturbed in your belly, and did a tumult suddenly rumble through it?
Strepsiades. Yes, by Apollo! And immediately the little broth plays the mischief with me, and is disturbed and rumbles like thunder, and grumbles dreadfully: at first gently pappax, pappax; and then it adds papa-pappax; and finally, it thunders downright papapappax, as they do.
Socrates. Consider, therefore, how you have trumpeted from a little belly so small; and how is it not probable that this air, being boundless, should thunder so loudly?
Strepsiades. For this reason, therefore, the two names also Trump and Thunder, are similar to each other. But teach me this, whence comes the thunderbolt blazing with fire, and burns us to ashes when it smites us, and singes those who survive. For indeed Jupiter evidently hurls this at the perjured.
Socrates. Why, how then, you foolish person, and savouring of the dark ages and antediluvian, if his manner is to smite the perjured, does he not blast Simon, and Cleonymus, and Theorus? And yet they are very perjured. But he smites his own temple, and Sunium the promontory of Athens, and the tall oaks. Wherefore, for indeed an oak does not commit perjury.
Strepsiades. I do not know; but you seem to speak well.For what, pray, is the thunderbolt?
Socrates. When a dry wind, having been raised aloft, is inclosed in these Clouds, it inflates them within, like a bladder; and then, of necessity, having burst them, it rushes out with vehemence by reason of its density, setting fire to itself through its rushing and impetuosity.
Strepsiades. By Jupiter, of a truth I once experienced this exactly at the Diasian festival! I was roasting a haggis for my kinsfolk, and through neglect I did not cut it open; but it became inflated and then suddenly bursting, befouled my eyes and burned my face.
Chorus. O mortal, who hast desired great wisdom from us! How happy will you become among the Athenians and among the Greeks, if you be possessed of a good memory, and be a deep thinker, and endurance of labour be implanted in your soul, and you be not wearied either by standing or walking, nor be exceedingly vexed at shivering with cold, nor long to break your fast, and you refrain from wine, and gymnastics, and the other follies, and consider this the highest excellence, as is proper a clever man should, to conquer by action and counsel, and by battling with your tongue.
Strepsiades. As far as regards a sturdy spirit, and care that makes one's bed uneasy, and a frugal spirit and hard-living and savory-eating belly, be of good courage and don't trouble yourself; I would offer myself to hammer on, for that matter.
Socrates. Will you not, pray, now believe in no god, except what we believe in--this Chaos, and the Clouds, and the Tongue--these three?
Strepsiades. Absolutely I would not even converse with the others, not even if I met them; nor would I sacrifice to them, nor make libations, nor offer frankincense.
Chorus. Tell us then boldly, what we must do for you? For you shall not fail in getting it, if you honour and admire us, and seek to become clever.
Strepsiades. O mistresses, I request of you then this very small favour, that I be the best of the Greeks in speaking by a hundred stadia.
Chorus. Well, you shall have this from us, so that hence-forward from this time no one shall get more opinions passed in the public assemblies than you.
Strepsiades. Grant me not to deliver important opinions; for I do not desire these, but only to pervert the right for my own advantage, and to evade my creditors.
Chorus. Then you shall obtain what you desire; for you do not covet great things. But commit yourself without fear to our ministers.
Strepsiades. I will do so in reliance upon you, for necessity oppresses me, on account of the blood-horses, and the marriage that ruined me. Now, therefore, let them use me as they please. I give up this body to them to be beaten, to be hungered, to be troubled with thirst, to be squalid, to shiver with cold, to flay into a leathern bottle, if I shall escape clear from my debts, and appear to men to be bold, glib of tongue, audacious, impudent, shameless, a fabricator of falsehoods, inventive of words, a practiced knave in lawsuits, a law-tablet, a thorough rattle, a fox, a sharper, a slippery knave, a dissembler, a slippery fellow, an impostor, a gallows-bird, a blackguard, a twister, a troublesome fellow, a licker-up of hashes. If they call me this, when they meet me, let them do to me absolutely what they please. And if they like, by Ceres, let them serve up a sausage out of me to the deep thinkers.
Chorus. This man has a spirit not void of courage, but prompt. Know, that if you learn these matters from me, you will possess among mortals a glory as high as heaven.
Strepsiades. What shall I experience?
Chorus. You shall pass with me the most enviable of mortal lives the whole time.
Strepsiades. Shall I then ever see this?
Chorus. Yea, so that many be always seated at your gates, wishing to communicate with you and come to a conference with you, to consult with you as to actions and affidavits of many talents, as is worthy of your abilities.
But attempt to teach the old man by degrees whatever you purpose, and scrutinize his intellect, and make trial of his mind.
Socrates. Come now, tell me your own turn of mind; in order that, when I know of what sort it is, I may now, after this, apply to you new engines.
Strepsiades. What? By the gods, do you purpose to besiege me?
Socrates. No; I wish to briefly learn from you if you are possessed of a good memory.
Strepsiades. In two ways, by Jove! If anything be owing to me, I have a very good memory; but if I owe unhappy man, I am very forgetful.
Socrates. Is the power of speaking, pray, implanted in your nature?
Strepsiades. Speaking is not in me, but cheating is.
Socrates. How, then, will you be able to learn?
Strepsiades. Excellently, of course.
Socrates. Come, then, take care that, whenever I propound any clever dogma about abstruse matters, you catch it up immediately.
Strepsiades. What then? Am I to feed upon wisdom like a dog?
Socrates. This man is ignorant and brutish--I fear, old man, lest you will need blows. Come, let me see; what do you do if any one beat you?
Strepsiades. I take the beating; and then, when I have waited a little while, I call witnesses to prove it; then again, after a short interval, I go to law.
Socrates. Come, then, lay down your cloak.
Strepsiades. Have I done any wrong?
Socrates. No; but it is the rule to enter naked.
Strepsiades. But I do not enter to search for stolen goods.
Socrates. Lay it down. Why do you talk nonsense?
Strepsiades. Now tell me this, pray. If I be diligent and learn zealously, to which of your disciples shall I become like?
Socrates. You will no way differ from Chaerephon in intellect.
Strepsiades. Ah me, unhappy! I shall become half-dead.
Socrates. Don't chatter; but quickly follow me hither with smartness.
Strepsiades. Then give me first into my hands a honeyed cake; for I am afraid of descending within, as if into the cave of Trophonius.
Socrates. Proceed; why do you keep poking about the door?
[Exeunt Socrates and Strepsiades]
Chorus. Well, go in peace, for the sake of this your valour. May prosperity attend the man, because, being advanced into the vale of years, he imbues his intellect with modern subjects, and cultivates wisdom!
[Turning to the audience.]
Spectators, I will freely declare to you the truth, by Bacchus, who nurtured me! So may I conquer, and be accounted skillful, as that, deeming you to be clever spectators, and this to be the cleverest of my comedies, I thought proper to let you first taste that comedy, which gave me the greatest labour. And then I retired from the contest defeated by vulgar fellows, though I did not deserve it. These things, therefore, I object to you, a learned audience, for whose sake I was expending this labour. But not even thus will I ever willingly desert the discerning portion of you. For since what time my Modest Man and my Rake were very highly praised here by an audience, with whom it is a pleasure even to hold converse, and I (for I was still a virgin, and it was not lawful for me as yet to have children) exposed my offspring, and another girl took it up, and owned it, and you generously reared and educated it, from this time I have had sure pledges of your good will toward me. Now, therefore, like that well-known Electra, has this comedy come seeking, if haply it meet with an audience so clever, for it will recognize, if it should see, the lock of its brother. But see how modest she is by nature, who, in the first place, has come, having stitched to her no leathern phallus hanging down, red at the top, and thick, to set the boys a laughing; nor yet jeered the bald-headed, nor danced the cordax; nor does the old man who speaks the verses beat the person near him with his staff, keeping out of sight wretched ribaldry; nor has she rushed in with torches, nor does she shout iou, iou; but has come relying on herself and her verses. And I, although so excellent a poet, do not give myself airs, nor do I seek to deceive you by twice and thrice bringing forward the same pieces; but I am always clever at introducing new fashions, not at all resembling each other, and all of them clever; who struck Cleon in the belly when at the height of his power, and could not bear to attack him afterward when he was down. But these scribblers, when once Hyperbolus has given them a handle, keep ever trampling on this wretched man and his mother. Eupolis, indeed, first of all craftily introduced his Maricas, having basely, base fellow, spoiled by altering my play of the Knights, having added to it, for the sake of the cordax, a drunken old woman, whom Phrynichus long ago poetized, whom the whale was for devouring. Then again Hermippus made verses on Hyperbolus; and now all others press hard upon Hyperbolus, imitating my simile of the eels. Whoever, therefore, laughs at these, let him not take pleasure in my attempts; but if you are delighted with me and my inventions, in times to come you will seem to be wise.
I first invoke, to join our choral band, the mighty Jupiter, ruling on high, the monarch of gods; and the potent master of the trident, the fierce upheaver of earth and briny sea; and our father of great renown, most august Aether, life-supporter of all; and the horse-guider, who fills the plain of the earth with exceeding bright beams, a mighty deity among gods and mortals.
Most clever spectators, come, give us your attention; for having been injured, we blame you to your faces. For though we benefit the state most of all the gods, to us alone of the deities you do not offer sacrifice nor yet pour libations, who watch over you. For if there should be any expedition without prudence, then we either thunder or drizzle small rain. And then, when you were for choosing as your general the Paphlagonian tanner, hateful to the gods, we contracted our brows and were enraged; and thunder burst through the lightning; and the Moon forsook her usual paths; and the Sun immediately drew in his wick to himself, and declared he would not give you light, if Cleon should be your general. Nevertheless you chose him. For they say that ill counsel is in this city; that the gods, however, turn all these your mismanagements to a prosperous issue. And how this also shall be advantageous, we will easily teach you. If you should convict the cormorant Cleon of bribery and embezzlement, and then make fast his neck in the stocks, the affair will turn out for the state to the ancient form again, if you have mismanaged in any way, and to a prosperous issue.
Hear me again, King Phoebus, Delian Apollo, who inhabitest the high-peaked Cynthian rock! And thou, blessed goddess, who inhabitest the all-golden house of Ephesus, in which Lydian damsels greatly reverence thee; and thou, our national goddess, swayer of the aegis, Minerva, guardian of the city! And thou, reveler Bacchus, who, inhabiting the Parnassian rock, sparklest with torches, conspicuous among the Delphic Bacchanals!
When we had got ready to set out hither, the Moon met us, and commanded us first to greet the Athenians and their allies; and then declared that she was angry, for that she had suffered dreadful things, though she benefits you all, not in words, but openly. In the first place, not less than a drachma every month for torches; so that also all, when they went out of an evening, were wont to say, "Boy, don't buy a torch, for the moonlight is beautiful." And she says she confers other benefits on you, but that you do not observe the days at all correctly, but confuse them up and down; so that she says the gods are constantly threatening her, when they are defrauded of their dinner, and depart home, not having met with the regular feast according to the number of the days. And then, when you ought to be sacrificing, you are inflicting tortures and litigating. And often, while we gods are observing a fast, when we mourn for Memnon or Sarpedon, you are pouring libations and laughing. For which reason Hyperbolus, having obtained the lot this year to be Hieromnemon, was afterward deprived by us gods of his crown; for thus he will know better that he ought to spend the days of his life according to the Moon.
Socrates. By Respiration, and Chaos, and Air, I have not seen any man so boorish, nor so impracticable, nor so stupid, nor so forgetful; who, while learning some little petty quibbles, forgets them before he has learned them. Nevertheless I will certainly call him out here to the light. Where is Strepsiades? Come forth with your couch.
Strepsiades. (from within). The bugs do not permit me to bring it forth.
Socrates. Make haste and lay it down; and give me your attention.
Strepsiades. Very well.
Socrates. Come now; what do you now wish to learn first of those things in none of which you have ever been instructed? Tell me. About measures, or rhythms, or verses?
Strepsiades. I should prefer to learn about measures; for it is but lately I was cheated out of two choenices by a meal-huckster.
Socrates. I do not ask you this, but which you account the most beautiful measure; the trimetre or the tetrameter?
Strepsiades. Make a wager then with me, if the semisextarius be not a tetrameter.
Socrates. Go to the devil! How boorish you are and dull of learning. Perhaps you may be able to learn about rhythms.
Strepsiades. But what good will rhythms do me for a living?
Socrates. In the first place, to be clever at an entertainment, understanding what rhythm is for the war-dance, and what, again, according to the dactyle.
Strepsiades. According to the dactyle? By Jove, but I know it!
Socrates. Tell me, pray.
Strepsiades. What else but this finger? Formerly, indeed, when I was yet a boy, this here!
Socrates. You are boorish and stupid.
Strepsiades. For I do not desire, you wretch, to learn any of these things.
Socrates. What then?
Strepsiades. That, that, the most unjust cause.
Socrates. But you must learn other things before these; namely, what quadrupeds are properly masculine.
Strepsiades. I know the males, if I am not mad-krios, tragos, tauros, kuon, alektryon.
Socrates. Do you see what you are doing? You are calling both the female and the male alektryon in the same way.
Strepsiades. How, pray? Come, tell me.
Socrates. How? The one with you is alektryon, and the other is alektryon also.
Strepsiades. Yea, by Neptune! How now ought I to call them?
Socrates. The one alektryaina and the other alektor.
Strepsiades. Alektryaina? Capital, by the Air! So that, in return for this lesson alone, I will fill your kardopos full of barley-meal on all sides.
Socrates. See! See! There again is another blunder! You make kardopos, which is feminine, to be masculine.
Strepsiades. In what way do I make kardopos masculine?
Socrates. Most assuredly; just as if you were to say Cleonymos.
Strepsiades. Good sir, Cleonymus had no kneading-trough, but kneaded his bread in a round mortar. How ought I to call it henceforth?
Socrates. How? Call it kardope, as you call Sostrate.
Strepsiades. Kardope in the feminine?
Socrates. For so you speak it rightly.
Strepsiades. But that would make it kardope, Kleonyme.
Socrates. You must learn one thing more about names, what are masculine and what of them are feminine.
Strepsiades. I know what are female.
Socrates. Tell me, pray.
Strepsiades. Lysilla, Philinna, Clitagora, Demetria.
Socrates. What names are masculine?
Strepsiades. Thousands; Philoxenus, Melesias, Amynias.
Socrates. But, you wretch! These are not masculine.
Strepsiades. Are they not males with you?
Socrates. By no means; for how would you call Amynias, if you met him?
Strepsiades. How would I call? Thus: "Come hither, come hither Amynia!"
Socrates. Do you see ? You call Amynias a woman.
Strepsiades. Is it not then with justice, who does not serve in the army? But why should I learn these things, that we all know?
Socrates. It is no use, by Jupiter! Having reclined yourself down here-
Strepsiades. What must I do?
Socrates. Think out some of your own affairs.
Strepsiades. Not here, pray, I beseech you; but, if I must, suffer me to excogitate these very things on the ground.
Socrates. There is no other way.