Peace
 

SCENE: A farmyard, two slaves busy beside a dungheap; afterwards, in Olympus.

FIRST SERVANT
Quick, quick, bring the dung-beetle his cake.

SECOND SERVANT
Coming, coming.

FIRST SERVANT
Give it to him, and may it kill him!

SECOND SERVANT
May he never eat a better.

FIRST SERVANT
Now give him this other one kneaded up with ass's dung.

SECOND SERVANT
There! I've done that too.

FIRST SERVANT
And where's what you gave him just now; surely he can't have devoured it yet!

SECOND SERVANT
Indeed he has; he snatched it, rolled it between his feet and bolted it.

FIRST SERVANT
Come, hurry up, knead up a lot and knead them stiffly.

SECOND SERVANT
Oh, scavengers, help me in the name of the gods, if you do not wish to see me fall down choked.

FIRST SERVANT
Come, come, another made from the stool of a young scapegrace catamite. 'Twill be to the beetle's taste; he likes it well ground.

SECOND SERVANT
There! I am free at least from suspicion; none will accuse me of tasting what I mix.

FIRST SERVANT
Faugh! come, now another! keep on mixing with all your might.

SECOND SERVANT
I' faith, no. I can stand this awful cesspool stench no longer, so I bring you the whole ill-smelling gear.

FIRST SERVANT
Pitch it down the sewer sooner, and yourself with it.

SECOND SERVANT
Maybe, one of you can tell me where I can buy a stopped-up nose, for there is no work more disgusting than to mix food for a beetle and to carry it to him. A pig or a dog will at least pounce upon our excrement without more ado, but this foul wretch affects the disdainful, the spoilt mistress, and won't eat unless I offer him a cake that has been kneaded for an entire day.... But let us open the door a bit ajar without his seeing it. Has he done eating? Come, pluck up courage, cram yourself till you burst! The cursed creature! It wallows in its food! It grips it between its claws like a wrestler clutching his opponent, and with head and feet together rolls up its paste like a rope-maker twisting a hawser. What an indecent, stinking, gluttonous beast! I know not what angry god let this monster loose upon us, but of a certainty it was neither Aphrodite nor the Graces.

FIRST SERVANT
Who was it then?

SECOND SERVANT
No doubt the Thunderer, Zeus.

FIRST SERVANT
But perhaps some spectator, some beardless youth, who thinks himself a sage, will say, "What is this? What does the beetle mean?" And then an Ionian,[1] sitting next him, will add, "I think 'tis an allusion to Cleon, who so shamelessly feeds on filth all by himself."--But now I'm going indoors to fetch the beetle a drink.

[1] 'Peace' was no doubt produced at the festival of the Apaturia, which was kept at the end of October, a period when strangers were numerous in Athens.

SECOND SERVANT
As for me, I will explain the matter to you all, children, youths, grownups and old men, aye, even to the decrepit dotards. My master is mad, not as you are, but with another sort of madness, quite a new kind. The livelong day he looks open-mouthed towards heaven and never stops addressing Zeus. "Ah! Zeus," he cries, "what are thy intentions? Lay aside thy besom; do not sweep Greece away!"

TRYGAEUS
Ah! ah! ah!

SECOND SERVANT
Hush, hush! Mehinks I hear his voice!

TRYGAEUS
Oh! Zeus, what art thou going to do for our people? Dost thou not see this, that our cities will soon be but empty husks?

SECOND SERVANT
As I told you, that is his form of madness. There you have a sample of his follies. When his trouble first began to seize him, he said to himself, "By what means could I go straight to Zeus?" Then he made himself very slender little ladders and so clambered up towards heaven; but he soon came hurtling down again and broke his head. Yesterday, to our misfortune, he went out and brought us back this thoroughbred, but from where I know not, this great beetle, whose groom he has forced me to become. He himself caresses it as though it were a horse, saying, "Oh! my little Pegasus,[1] my noble aerial steed, may your wings soon bear me straight to Zeus!" But what is my master doing? I must stoop down to look through this hole. Oh! great gods! Here! neighbours, run here quick! here is my master flying off mounted on his beetle as if on horseback.

[1] The winged steed of Perseus--an allusion to a lost tragedy of Euripides, in which Bellerophon was introduced riding on Pegasus.

TRYGAEUS
Gently, gently, go easy, beetle; don't start off so proudly, or trust at first too greatly to your powers; wait till you have sweated, till the beating of your wings shall make your limb joints supple. Above all things, don't let off some foul smell, I adjure you; else I would rather have you stop in the stable altogether.

SECOND SERVANT
Poor master! Is he crazy?

TRYGAEUS
Silence! silence!

SECOND SERVANT (TO TRYGAEUS)
But why start up into the air on chance?

TRYGAEUS
'Tis for the weal of all the Greeks; I am attempting a daring and novel feat.

SECOND SERVANT
But what is your purpose? What useless folly!

TRYGAEUS
No words of ill omen! Give vent to joy and command all men to keep silence, to close down their drains and privies with new tiles and to stop up their own vent-holes.[1]

[1] Fearing that if it caught a whiff from earth to its liking, the beetle might descend from the highest heaven to satisfy itself.

FIRST SERVANT
No, I shall not be silent, unless you tell me where you are going.

TRYGAEUS
Why, where am I likely to be going across the sky, if it be not to visit Zeus?

FIRST SERVANT
For what purpose?

TRYGAEUS
I want to ask him what he reckons to do for all the Greeks.

SECOND SERVANT
And if he doesn't tell you?

TRYGAEUS
I shall pursue him at law as a traitor who sells Greece to the Medes.[1]

[1] The Persians and the Spartans were not then allied as the scholiast states, since a treaty between them was only concluded in 412 B.C., i.e. eight years after the production of 'Peace'; the great king, however, was trying to derive advantages out of the dissensions in Greece.

SECOND SERVANT
Death seize me, if I let you go.

TRYGAEUS
It is absolutely necessary.

SECOND SERVANT
Alas! alas! dear little girls, your father is deserting you secretly to go to heaven. Ah! poor orphans, entreat him, beseech him.

LITTLE DAUGHTER
Father! father! what is this I hear? Is it true? What! you would leave me, you would vanish into the sky, you would go to the crows?[1] 'Tis impossible! Answer, father, an you love me.

[1] "Go to the crows," a proverbial expression equivalent to our "Go to the devil."

TRYGAEUS
Yes, I am going. You hurt me too sorely, my daughters, when you ask me for bread, calling me your daddy, and there is not the ghost of an obolus in the house; if I succeed and come back, you will have a barley loaf every morning--and a punch in the eye for sauce!

LITTLE DAUGHTER
But how will you make the journey? 'Tis not a ship that will carry you thither.

TRYGAEUS
No, but this winged steed will.

LITTLE DAUGHTER
But what an idea, daddy, to harness a beetle, on which to fly to the gods.

TRYGAEUS
We see from Aesop's fables that they alone can fly to the abode of the Immortals.[1]

[1] Aesop tells us that the eagle and the beetle were at war; the eagle devoured the beetle's young and the latter got into its nest and tumbled out its eggs. On this the eagle complained to Zeus, who advised it to lay its eggs in his bosom; but the beetle flew up to the abode of Zeus, who, forgetful of the eagle's eggs, at once rose to chase off the objectionable insect. The eggs fell to earth and were smashed to bits.

LITTLE DAUGHTER
Father, father, 'tis a tale nobody can believe! that such a stinking creature can have gone to the gods.

TRYGAEUS
It went to have vengeance on the eagle and break its eggs.

LITTLE DAUGHTER
Why not saddle Pegasus? you would have a more TRAGIC[1] appearance in the eyes of the gods.

[1] Pegasus is introduced by Euripides both in his 'Andromeda' and his 'Bellerophon.'

TRYGAEUS
Eh! don't you see, little fool, that then twice the food would be wanted? Whereas my beetle devours again as filth what I have eaten myself.

LITTLE DAUGHTER
And if it fell into the watery depths of the sea, could it escape with its wings?

TRYGAEUS (EXPOSING HIMSELF)
I am fitted with a rudder in case of need, and my Naxos beetle will serve me as a boat.[1]

[1] Boats, called 'beetles,' doubtless because in form they resembled these insects, were built at Naxos.

LITTLE DAUGHTER
And what harbour will you put in at?

TRYGAEUS
Why is there not the harbour of Cantharos at the Piraeus?[1]

[1] Nature had divided the Piraeus into three basins--Cantharos, Aphrodisium and Zea. [Cantharos] is Greek for dung-beetle.

LITTLE DAUGHTER
Take care not to knock against anything and so fall off into space; once a cripple, you would be a fit subject for Euripides, who would put you into a tragedy.[1]

[1] In allusion to Euripides' fondness for introducing lame heroes in his plays.

TRYGAEUS
I'll see to it. Good-bye! (TO THE ATHENIANS.) You, for love of whom I brave these dangers, do ye neither let wind nor go to stool for the space of three days, for, if, while cleaving the air, my steed should scent anything, he would fling me head foremost from the summit of my hopes. Now come, my Pegasus, get a-going with up-pricked ears and make your golden bridle resound gaily. Eh! what are you doing? What are you up to? Do you turn your nose towards the cesspools? Come, pluck up a spirit; rush upwards from the earth, stretch out your speedy wings and make straight for the palace of Zeus; for once give up foraging in your daily food.--Hi! you down there, what are you after now? Oh! my god! 'tis a man emptying his belly in the Piraeus, close to the house where the bad girls are. But is it my death you seek then, my death? Will you not bury that right away and pile a great heap of earth upon it and plant wild thyme therein and pour perfumes on it? If I were to fall from up here and misfortune happened to me, the town of Chios[1] would owe a fine of five talents for my death, all along of your cursed rump. Alas! how frightened I am! oh! I have no heart for jests. Ah! machinist, take great care of me. There is already a wind whirling round my navel; take great care or, from sheer fright, I shall form food for my beetle.... But I think I am no longer far from the gods; aye, that is the dwelling of Zeus, I perceive. Hullo! Hi! where is the doorkeeper? Will no one open?

[1] An allusion to the proverbial nickname applied to the Chians [in Greek]--'crapping Chian.' There is a further joke, of course, in connection with the hundred and one frivolous pretexts which the Athenians invented for exacting contributions from the maritime allies.

(THE SCENE CHANGES AND HEAVEN IS PRESENTED.)

HERMES
Meseems I can sniff a man. (HE PERCEIVES TRYGAEUS ASTRIDE HIS BEETLE.) Why, what plague is this?

TRYGAEUS
A horse-beetle.

HERMES
Oh! impudent, shameless rascal! oh! scoundrel! triple scoundrel! the greatest scoundrel in the world! how did you come here? Oh! scoundrel of all scoundrels! your name? Reply.

TRYGAEUS
Triple scoundrel.

HERMES
Your country?

TRYGAEUS
Triple scoundrel.

HERMES
Your father?

TRYGAEUS
My father? Triple scoundrel.

HERMES
By the Earth, you shall die, unless you tell me your name.

TRYGAEUS
I am Trygaeus of the Athmonian deme, a good vine-dresser, little addicted to quibbling and not at all an informer.

HERMES
Why do you come?

TRYGAEUS
I come to bring you this meat.

HERMES
Ah! my good friend, did you have a good journey?

TRYGAEUS
Glutton, be off! I no longer seem a triple scoundrel to you. Come, call Zeus.

HERMES
Ah! ah! you are a long way yet from reaching the gods, for they moved yesterday.

TRYGAEUS
To what part of the earth?

HERMES
Eh! of the earth, did you say?

TRYGAEUS
In short, where are they then?

HERMES
Very far, very far, right at the furthest end of the dome of heaven.

TRYGAEUS
But why have they left you all alone here?

HERMES
I am watching what remains of the furniture, the little pots and pans, the bits of chairs and tables, and odd wine-jars.

TRYGAEUS
And why have the gods moved away?

HERMES
Because of their wrath against the Greeks. They have located War in the house they occupied themselves and have given him full power to do with you exactly as he pleases; then they went as high up as ever they could, so as to see no more of your fights and to hear no more of your prayers.

TRYGAEUS
What reason have they for treating us so?

HERMES
Because they have afforded you an opportunity for peace more than once, but you have always preferred war. If the Laconians got the very slightest advantage, they would exclaim, "By the Twin Brethren! the Athenians shall smart for this." If, on the contrary, the latter triumphed and the Laconians came with peace proposals, you would say, "By Demeter, they want to deceive us. No, by Zeus, we will not hear a word; they will always be coming as long as we hold Pylos."[1]

[1] Masters of Pylos and Sphacteria, the Athenians had brought home the three hundred prisoners taken in the latter place in 425 B.C.; the Spartans had several times sent envoys to offer peace and to demand back both Pylos and the prisoners, but the Athenian pride had caused these proposals to be long refused. Finally the prisoners had been given up in 423 B.C., but the War was continued nevertheless.

TRYGAEUS
Yes, that is quite the style our folk do talk in.

HERMES
So that I don't know whether you will ever see Peace again.

TRYGAEUS
Why, where has she gone to then?

HERMES
War has cast her into a deep pit.

TRYGAEUS
Where?

HERMES
Down there, at the very bottom. And you see what heaps of stones he has piled over the top, so that you should never pull her out again.

TRYGAEUS
Tell me, what is War preparing against us?

HERMES
All I know is that last evening he brought along a huge mortar.

TRYGAEUS
And what is he going to do with his mortar?

HERMES
He wants to pound up all the cities of Greece in it.... But I must say good-bye, for I think he is coming out; what an uproar he is making!

TRYGAEUS
Ah! great gods! let us seek safety; meseems I already hear the noise of this fearful war mortar.

WAR (ENTERS, CARRYING A HUGE MORTAR)
Oh! mortals, mortals, wretched mortals, how your jaws will snap!

TRYGAEUS
Oh! divine Apollo! what a prodigious big mortar! Oh, what misery the very sight of War causes me! This then is the foe from whom I fly, who is so cruel, so formidable, so stalwart, so solid on his legs!

WAR
Oh! Prasiae![1] thrice wretched, five times, aye, a thousand times wretched! for thou shalt be destroyed this day.

[1] An important town in Eastern Laconia on the Argolic gulf, celebrated for a temple where a festival was held annually in honour of Achilles. It had been taken and pillaged by the Athenians in the second year of the Peloponnesian War, 430 B.C. As he utters this imprecation, War throws some leeks, the root-word of the name Praisae, into his mortar.

TRYGAEUS
This does not concern us over much; 'tis only so much the worse for the Laconians.

WAR
Oh! Megara! Megara! how utterly are you going to be ground up! what fine mincemeat[1] are you to be made into!

[1] War throws some garlic into his mortar as emblematical of the city of Megara, where it was grown in abundance.

TRYGAEUS
Alas! alas! what bitter tears there will be among the Megarians![1]

[1] Because the smell of bruised garlic causes the eyes to water.

WAR
Oh, Sicily! you too must perish! Your wretched towns shall be grated like this cheese.[1] Now let us pour some Attic honey[2] into the mortar.

[1] He throws cheese into the mortar as emblematical of Sicily, on account of its rich pastures.
[2] Emblematical of Athens. They honey of Mount Hymettus was famous.

TRYGAEUS
Oh! I beseech you! use some other honey; this kind is worth four obols; be careful, oh! be careful of our Attic honey.

WAR
Hi! Tumult, you slave there!

TUMULT
What do you want?

WAR
Out upon you! Standing there with folded arms! Take this cuff o' the head for your pains.

TUMULT
Oh! how it stings! Master, have you got garlic in your fist, I wonder?

WAR
Run and fetch me a pestle.

TUMULT
But we haven't got one; 'twas only yesterday we moved.

WAR
Go and fetch me one from Athens, and hurry, hurry!

TUMULT
Aye, I hasten there; if I return without one, I shall have no cause for laughing. (EXIT.)

TRYGAEUS
Ah! what is to become of us, wretched mortals that we are? See the danger that threatens if he returns with the pestle, for War will quietly amuse himself with pounding all the towns of Hellas to pieces. Ah! Bacchus! cause this herald of evil to perish on his road!

WAR
Well?

TUMULT (WHO HAS RETURNED)
Well, what?

WAR
You have brought back nothing?

TUMULT
Alas! the Athenians have lost their pestle--the tanner, who ground Greece to powder.[1]

[1] Cleon, who had lately fallen before Amphipolis, in 422 B.C.

TRYGAEUS
Oh! Athene, venerable mistress! 'tis well for our city he is dead, and before he could serve us with this hash.

WAR
Then go and seek one at Sparta and have done with it!

TUMULT
Aye, aye, master!

WAR
Be back as quick as ever you can.

TRYGAEUS (TO THE AUDIENCE)
What is going to happen, friends? 'Tis the critical hour. Ah! if there is some initiate of Samothrace[1] among you, 'tis surely the moment to wish this messenger some accident--some sprain or strain.

[1] An island in the Aegean Sea, on the coast of Thrace and opposite the mouth of the Hebrus; the Mysteries are said to have found their first home in this island, where the Cabirian gods were worshipped; this cult, shrouded in deep mystery to even the initiates themselves, has remained an almost insoluble problem for the modern critic. It was said that the wishes of the initiates were always granted, and they were feared as to-day the 'jettatori' (spell-throwers, casters of the evil eye) in Sicily are feared.

TUMULT (WHO RETURNS)
Alas! alas! thrice again, alas!

WAR
What is it? Again you come back without it?

TUMULT
The Spartans too have lost their pestle.

WAR
How, varlet?

TUMULT
They had lent it to their allies in Thrace,[1] who have lost it for them.

[1] Brasidas perished in Thrace in the same battle as Cleon at Amphipolis, 422 B.C.

TRYGAEUS
Long life to you, Thracians! My hopes revive, pluck up courage, mortals!

WAR
Take all this stuff away; I am going in to make a pestle for myself.

TRYGAEUS
'Tis now the time to sing as Datis did, as he abused himself at high noon, "Oh pleasure! oh enjoyment! oh delights!" 'Tis now, oh Greeks! the moment when freed of quarrels and fighting, we should rescue sweet Peace and draw her out of this pit, before some other pestle prevents us. Come, labourers, merchants, workmen, artisans, strangers, whether you be domiciled or not, islanders, come here, Greeks of all countries, come hurrying here with picks and levers and ropes! 'Tis the moment to drain a cup in honour of the Good Genius.

CHORUS
Come hither all! quick, hasten to the rescue! All peoples of Greece, now is the time or never, for you to help each other. You see yourselves freed from battles and all their horrors of bloodshed. The day, hateful to Lamachus[1], has come. Come then, what must be done? Give your orders, direct us, for I swear to work this day without ceasing, until with the help of our levers and our engines we have drawn back into light the greatest of all goddesses, her to whom the olive is so dear.

[1] An Athenian general as ambitious as he was brave. In 423 B.C. he had failed in an enterprise against Heracles, a storm having destroyed his fleet. Since then he had distingued himself in several actions, and was destined, some years later, to share the command of the expedition to Sicily with Alcibiades and Nicias.

TRYGAEUS
Silence! if War should hear your shouts of joy he would bound forth from his retreat in fury.

CHORUS
Such a decree overwhelms us with joy; how different to the edict, which bade us muster with provisions for three days.[1]

[1] Meaning, to start a military expedition.

TRYGAEUS
Let us beware lest the cursed Cerberus[1] prevent us even from the nethermost hell from delivering the goddess by his furious howling, just as he did when on earth.

[1] Cleon.

CHORUS
Once we have hold of her, none in the world will be able to take her from us. Huzza! huzza![1]

[1] The Chorus insist on the conventional choric dance.

TRYGAEUS
You will work my death if you don't subdue your shouts. War will come running out and trample everything beneath his feet.

CHORUS
Well then! LET him confound, let him trample, let him overturn everything! We cannot help giving vent to our joy.

TRYGAEUS
Oh! cruel fate! My friends! in the name of the gods, what possesses you? Your dancing will wreck the success of a fine undertaking.

CHORUS
'Tis not I who want to dance; 'tis my legs that bound with delight.

TRYGAEUS
Enough, an you love me, cease your gambols.

CHORUS
There! 'Tis over.

TRYGAEUS
You say so, and nevertheless you go on.

CHORUS
Yet one more figure and 'tis done.

TRYGAEUS
Well, just this one; then you must dance no more.

CHORUS
No, no more dancing, if we can help you.

TRYGAEUS
But look, you are not stopping even now.

CHORUS
By Zeus, I am only throwing up my right leg, that's all.

TRYGAEUS
Come, I grant you that, but pray, annoy me no further.

CHORUS
Ah! the left leg too will have its fling; well, 'tis but its right. I am so happy, so delighted at not having to carry my buckler any more. I sing and I laugh more than if I had cast my old age, as a serpent does its skin.

TRYGAEUS
No, 'tis not time for joy yet, for you are not sure of success. But when you have got the goddess, then rejoice, shout and laugh; thenceforward you will be able to sail or stay at home, to make love or sleep, to attend festivals and processions, to play at cottabos,[1] live like true Sybarites and to shout, Io, io!

[1] One of the most favourite games with the Greeks. A stick was set upright in the ground and to this the beam of a balance was attached by its centre. Two vessels were hung from the extremities of the beam so as to balance; beneath these two other and larger dishes were placed and filled with water, and in the middle of each a brazen figure, called Manes, was stood. The game consisted in throwing drops of wine from an agreed distance into one or the other vessel, so that, dragged downwards by the weight of the liquor, it bumped against Manes.

CHORUS
Ah! God grant we may see the blessed day. I have suffered so much; have so oft slept with Phormio[1] on hard beds. You will no longer find me an acid, angry, hard judge as heretofore, but will find me turned indulgent and grown younger by twenty years through happiness. We have been killing ourselves long enough, tiring ourselves out with going to the Lyceum[2] and returning laden with spear and buckler. --But what can we do to please you? Come, speak; for 'tis a good Fate that has named you our leader.

[1] A general of austere habits; he disposed of all his property to pay the cost of a naval expedition, in which he beat the fleet of the foe off the promontory of Rhium in 429 B.C.
[2] The Lyceum was a portico ornamented with paintings and surrounded with gardens, in which military exercises took place.

TRYGAEUS
How shall we set about removing these stones?

HERMES
Rash reprobate, what do you propose doing?

TRYGAEUS
Nothing bad, as Cillicon said.[1]

[1] A citizen of Miletus, who betrayed his country to the people of Pirene. When asked what he purposed, he replied, "Nothing bad," which expression had therefore passed into a proverb.

HERMES
You are undone, you wretch.

TRYGAEUS
Yes, if the lot had to decide my life, for Hermes would know how to turn the chance.[1]

[1] Hermes was the god of chance.

HERMES
You are lost, you are dead.

TRYGAEUS
On what day?

HERMES
This instant.

TRYGAEUS
But I have not provided myself with flour and cheese yet[1] to start for death.

[1] As the soldiers had to do when starting on an expedition.

HERMES
You ARE kneaded and ground already, I tell you.[1]

[1] That is, you are predicated.

TRYGAEUS
Hah! I have not yet tasted that gentle pleasure.

HERMES
Don't you know that Zeus has decreed death for him who is surprised exhuming Peace?

TRYGAEUS
What! must I really and truly die?

HERMES
You must.

TRYGAEUS
Well then, lend me three drachmae to buy a young pig; I wish to have myself initiated before I die.[1]

[1] The initiated were thought to enjoy greater happiness after death.

HERMES
Oh! Zeus, the Thunderer![1]

[1] He summons Zeus to reveal Trygaeus' conspiracy.

TRYGAEUS
I adjure you in the name of the gods, master, don't denounce us!

HERMES
I may not, I cannot keep silent.

TRYGAEUS
In the name of the meats which I brought you so good-naturedly.

HERMES
Why, wretched man, Zeus will annihilate me, if I do not shout out at the top of my voice, to inform him what you are plotting.

TRYGAEUS
Oh, no! don't shout, I beg you, dear little Hermes.... And what are you doing, comrades? You stand there as though you were stocks and stones. Wretched men, speak, entreat him at once; otherwise he will be shouting.

CHORUS
Oh! mighty Hermes! don't do it; no, don't do it! If ever you have eaten some young pig, sacrificed by us on your altars, with pleasure, may this offering not be without value in your sight to-day.

TRYGAEUS
Do you not hear them wheedling you, mighty god?

CHORUS
Be not pitiless toward our prayers; permit us to deliver the goddess. Oh! the most human, the most generous of the gods, be favourable toward us, if it be true that you detest the haughty crests and proud brows of Pisander;[1] we shall never cease, oh master, offering you sacred victims and solemn prayers.

[1] An Athenian captain who later had the recall of Alcibiades decreed by the Athenian people; in 'The Birds' Aristophanes represents him as a cowardly beggar. He was the reactionary leader who estalbished the Oligarchical Government of the Four Hundred, 411 B.C., after the failure of the Syracusan expedition.

TRYGAEUS
Have mercy, mercy, let yourself be touched by their words; never was your worship so dear to them as to-day.

HERMES
I' truth, never have you been greater thieves.[1]

[1] Among other attributes, Hermes was the god of theieves.

TRYGAEUS
I will reveal a great, a terrible conspiracy against the gods to you.

HERMES
Hah! speak and perchance I shall let myself be softened.

TRYGAEUS
Know then, that the Moon and that infamous Sun are plotting against you, and want to deliver Greece into the hands of the Barbarians.

HERMES
What for?

TRYGAEUS
Because it is to you that we sacrifice, whereas the barbarians worship them; hence they would like to see you destroyed, that they alone might receive the offerings.

HERMES
'Tis then for this reason that these untrustworthy charioteers have for so long been defrauding us, one of them robbing us of daylight and the other nibbling away at the other's disk.[1]

[1] Alluding to the eclipses of the sun and the moon.

TRYGAEUS
Yes, certainly. So therefore, Hermes, my friend, help us with your whole heart to find and deliver the captive and we will celebrate the great Panathenaea[1] in your honour as well as all the festivals of the other gods; for Hermes shall be the Mysteries, the Dipolia, the Adonia; everywhere the towns, freed from their miseries, will sacrifice to Hermes the Liberator; you will be loaded with benefits of every kind, and to start with, I offer you this cup for libations as your first present.

[1] The Panathenaea were dedicated to Athene, the Mysteries to Demeter, the Dipolia to Zeus, the Adonia to Aphrodite and Adonis. Trygaeus promises Hermes that he shall be worshipped in the place of the other gods.

HERMES
Ah! how golden cups do influence me! Come, friends, get to work. To the pit quickly, pick in hand, and drag away the stones.

CHORUS
We go, but you, cleverest of all the gods, supervise our labours; tell us, good workman as you are, what we must do; we shall obey your orders with alacrity.

TRYGAEUS
Quick, reach me your cup, and let us preface our work by addressing prayers to the gods.

HERMES
Oh! sacred, sacred libations! Keep silence, oh! ye people! keep silence!

TRYGAEUS
Let us offer our libations and our prayers, so that this day may begin an era of unalloyed happiness for Greece and that he who has bravely pulled at the rope with us may never resume his buckler.

CHORUS
Aye, may we pass our lives in peace, caressing our mistresses and poking the fire.

TRYGAEUS
May he who would prefer the war, oh Dionysus, be ever drawing barbed arrows out of his elbows.

HERMES
If there be a citizen, greedy for military rank and honours who refuses, oh, divine Peace! to restore you to daylight. may he behave as cowardly as Cleonymus on the battlefield.

TRYGAEUS
If a lance-maker or a dealer in shields desires war for the sake of better trade, may he be taken by pirates and eat nothing but barley.

CHORUS
If some ambitious man does not help us, because he wants to become a General, or if a slave is plotting to pass over to the enemy, let his limbs be broken on the wheel, may he be beaten to death with rods! As for us, may Fortune favour us! Io! Paean, Io!

TRYGAEUS
Don't say Paean,[1] but simply, Io.

[1] The pun here cannot be kept. The word [in Greek], Paean, resembles [that for] to strike; hence the word, as recalling the blows and wounds of the war, seems of ill omen to Trygaeus.

HERMES
Very well, then! Io! Io! I'll simply say, Io!

TRYGAEUS
To Hermes, the Graces, Hora, Aphrodite, Eros!

CHORUS
But not to Ares?

TRYGAEUS
No.

CHORUS
Nor doubtless to Enyalius?

TRYGAEUS
No.

CHORUS
Come, all strain at the ropes to tear away the stones. Pull!

HERMES
Heave away, heave, heave, oh!

CHORUS
Come, pull harder, harder.

HERMES
Heave away, heave, heave, oh!

CHORUS
Still harder, harder still.

HERMES
Heave away, heave! Heave away, heave, heave, oh!

TRYGAEUS
Come, come, there is no working together. Come! all pull at the same instant! you Boeotians are only pretending. Beware!

HERMES
Come, heave away, heave!

CHORUS
Hi! you two pull as well.

TRYGAEUS
Why, I am pulling, I am hanging on to the rope and straining till I am almost off my feet; I am working with all my might.

CHORUS
Why does not the work advance then?

TRYGAEUS
Lamachus, this is too bad! You are in the way, sitting there. We have no use for your Medusa's head, friend.[1]

[1] The device on his shield was a Gorgon's head. (See 'The Acharnians.')