THE CLOUDS by Aristophanes, Part 06
But what you certainly do not know is that they are the support of
a crowd of quacks, the diviners, who were sent to Thurium, the
notorious physicians, the well-combed fops, who load their fingers
with rings down to the nails, and the braggarts, who write dithyrambic
verses, all these are idlers whom the Clouds provide a living for,
because they sing them in their verses.
It is then for this that they praise "the rapid flight of the
moist clouds, which veil the brightness of day" and "the waving
locks of the hundred-headed Typho" and "the impetuous tempests,
which float through the heavens, like birds of prey with aerial
wings loaded with mists" and "the rains, the dew, which the clouds
outpour." As a reward for these fine phrases they bolt well-grown,
tasty mullet and delicate thrushes.
Yes, thanks to these. And is it not right and meet?
Tell me then why, if these really are the Clouds, they so very
much resemble mortals. This is not their usual form.
What are they like then?
I don't know exactly; well, they are like great packs of wool, but
not like women-no, not in the least....And these have noses.
Answer my questions.
Willingly! Go on, I am listening.
Have you not sometimes seen clouds in the sky like a centaur, a
leopard, a wolf or a bull?
Why, certainly I have, but what of that?
They take what metamorphosis they like. If they see a debauchee
with long flowing locks and hairy as a beast, like the son of
Xenophantes, they take the form of a Centaur in derision of his
And when they see Simon, that thiever of public money, what do
they do then?
To picture him to the life, they turn at once into wolves.
So that was why yesterday, when they saw Cleonymus, who cast
away his buckler because he is the veriest poltroon amongst men,
they changed into deer.
And to-day they have seen Clisthenes; you see....they are women
Hail, sovereign goddesses, and if ever you have let your celestial
voice be heard by mortal ears, speak to me, oh! speak to me, ye
Hail! veteran of the ancient times, you who burn to instruct
yourself in fine language. And you, great high-priest of subtle
nonsense, tell us; your desire. To you and Prodicus alone of all the
hollow orationers of to-day have we lent an ear-to Prodicus, because
of his knowledge and his great wisdom, and to you, because you walk
with head erect, a confident look, barefooted, resigned to
everything and proud of our protection.
Oh! Earth! What august utterances! how sacred! how wondrous!
That is because these are the only goddesses; all the rest are
But by the Earth! is our father, Zeus, the Olympian, not a god?
Zeus! what Zeus! Are you mad? There is no Zeus.
What are you saying now? Who causes the rain to fall? Answer me
Why, these, and I will prove it. Have you ever seen it raining
without clouds? Let Zeus then cause rain with a clear sky and
without their presence!
By Apollo! that is powerfully argued! For my own part, I always
thought it was Zeus pissing into a sieve. But tell me, who is it makes
the thunder, which I so much dread?
These, when they roll one over the other.
But how can that be? you most daring among men!
Being full of water, and forced to move along, they are of
necessity precipitated in rain, being fully distended with moisture
from the regions where they have been floating; hence they bump each
other heavily and burst with great noise.
But is it not Zeus who forces them to move?
Not at all; it's the aerial Whirlwind.
The Whirlwind! ah! I did not know that. So Zeus, it seems, has
no existence, and its the Whirlwind that reigns in his stead? But
you have not yet told me what makes the roll of the thunder?
Have you not understood me then? I tell you, that the Clouds, when
full of rain, bump against one another, and that, being inordinately
swollen out, they burst with a great noise.