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THE ACHARNIANS by Aristophanes, Part 09

They were elected.
And why do you always receive your pay, when none of these
others ever gets any? Speak, Marilades, you have grey hair; well then,
have you ever been entrusted with a mission? See! he shakes his
head. Yet he is an as well as a prudent man. And you, Anthracyllus
or Euphorides or Prinides, have you knowledge of Ecbatana or
Chaonia? You say no, do you not? Such offices are good for the son
of Coesyra and Lamachus, who, but yesterday ruined with debt, never
pay their shot, and whom all their friends avoid as foot passengers
dodge the folks who empty their slops out of window.
Oh! in freedom's name! are such exaggerations to be borne?
Not unless Lamachus gets paid for it.
But I propose always to war with the Peloponnesians, both at
sea, on land and everywhere to make them tremble, and trounce them
(He goes back into his house.)
For my own part, I make proclamation to all Peloponnesians,
Megarians and Boeotians, that to them my markets are open; but I debar
Lamachus from entering them.
(He goes into his house.)
Convinced by this man's speech, the folk have changed their view
and approve him for having concluded peace. But let us prepare for the
recital of the parabasis.
(The CHORUS moves forward and faces the audience.)
Never since our poet presented comedies, has he praised himself
upon the stage; but, having been slandered by his enemies amongst
the volatile Athenians, accused of scoffing at his country and of
insulting the people, to-day he wishes to reply and regain for himself
the inconstant Athenians. He maintains that he has done much that is
good for you; if you no longer allow yourselves to be too much
hoodwinked by strangers or seduced by flattery, if in politics you are
no longer the ninnies you once were, it is thanks to him. Formerly,
when delegates from other cities wanted to deceive you, they had but
to style you, "the people crowned with violets," and at the word
"violets" you at once sat erect on the tips of your bums. Or if, to
tickle your vanity, someone spoke of "rich and sleek Athens," in
return for that "sleekness" he would get anything he wanted, because
he spoke of you as he would have of anchovies in oil. In cautioning
you against such wiles, the poet has done you great service as well as
in forcing you to understand what is really the democratic
principle. Thus the strangers, who came to pay their tributes,
wanted to see this great poet, who had dared to speak the truth to
Athens. And so far has the fame of his boldness reached that one day
the Great King, when questioning the Lacedaemonian delegates, first
asked them which of the two rival cities was the superior at sea,
and then immediately demanded at which it was that the comic poet
directed his biting satire. "Happy that city," he added, "if it
listens to his counsel; it will grow in power, and its victory is
assured." This is why the Lacedaemonians offer you peace, if you
will cede them Aegina; not that they care for the isle, but they
wish to rob you of your poet. As for you, never lose him, who will
always fight for the cause of justice in his comedies; he promises you
that his precepts will lead you to happiness, though he uses neither
flattery, nor bribery, nor intrigue, nor deceit; instead of loading
you with praise, he will point you to the better way. I scoff at
Cleon's tricks and plotting; honesty and justice shall fight my cause;
never will you find me a political poltroon, a prostitute to the
highest bidder.
FIRST SEMI-CHORUS (singing) I invoke thee, Acharnian Muse, fierce
and fell as the devouring fire; sudden as the spark that bursts from
the crackling oaken coal when roused by the quickening fan to fry
little fishes, while others knead the dough or whip the sharp
Thasian pickle with rapid hand, so break forth, my Muse, and inspire
thy tribesmen with rough, vigorous, stirring strains.
We others, now old men and heavy with years, we reproach the city;
so many are the victories we have gained for the Athenian fleets
that we well deserve to be cared for in our declining life; yet far
from this, we are ill-used, harassed with law-suits, delivered over to
the scorn of stripling orators. Our minds and bodies being ravaged
with age, Posidon should protect us, yet we have no other support than
a staff. When standing before the judge, we can scarcely stammer forth
the fewest words, and of justice we see but its barest shadow, whereas
the accuser, desirous of conciliating the younger men, overwhelms us
with his ready rhetoric; he drags us before the judge, presses us with
questions, lays traps for us; the onslaught troubles, upsets and ruins
poor old Tithonus, who, crushed with age, stands tongue-tied;
sentenced to a fine, he weeps, he sobs and says to his friend, "This
fine robs me of the last trifle that was to have bought my coffin."
Is this not a scandal? What! the clepsydra is to kill the
white-haired veteran, who, in fierce fighting, has so oft covered
himself with glorious sweat, whose valour at Marathon saved the
country! We were the ones who pursued on the field of Marathon,
whereas now it is wretches who pursue us to the death and crush us.
What would Marpsias reply to this?


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