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Aristophanes Index


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THE CLOUDS by Aristophanes, Part 07

STREPSIADES
How can you make me credit that?
SOCRATES
Take yourself as an example. When you have heartily gorged on stew
at the PanATHENAea, you get throes of stomach-ache and then suddenly
your belly resounds with prolonged rumbling.
STREPSIADES
Yes, yes, by Apollo I suffer, I get colic, then the stew sets to
rumbling like thunder and finally bursts forth with a terrific
noise. At first, it's but a little gurgling pappax, pappax! then it
increases, papapappax! and when I take my crap, why, it's thunder
indeed, papapappax! pappax!! papapappax!!! just like the clouds.
SOCRATES
Well then, reflect what a noise is produced by your belly, which
is but small. Shall not the air, which is boundless, produce these
mighty claps of thunder?
STREPSIADES
And this is why the names are so much alike: crap and clap. But
tell me this. Whence comes the lightning, the dazzling flame, which at
times consumes the man it strikes, at others hardly singes him. Is
it not plain, that Zeus is hurling it at the perjurers?
SOCRATES
Out upon the fool! the driveller! he still savours of the golden
age! If Zeus strikes at the perjurers, why has he not blasted Simon,
Cleonymus and Theorus? Of a surety, greater perjurers cannot exist.
No, he strikes his own temple, and Sunium, the promontory of Athens,
and the towering oaks. Now, why should he do that? An oak is no
perjurer.
STREPSIADES
I cannot tell, but it seems to me well argued. What is the
lightning then?
SOCRATES
When a dry wind ascends to the Clouds and gets shut into them,
it blows them out like a bladder; finally, being too confined, it
bursts them, escapes with fierce violence and a roar to flash into
flame by reason of its own impetuosity.
STREPSIADES
Ah, that's just what happened to me one day. It was at the feast
of Zeus! I was cooking a sow's belly for my family and I had forgotten
to slit it open. It swelled out and, suddenly bursting, discharged
itself right into my eyes and burnt my face.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Oh, mortal, you who desire to instruct yourself in our great
wisdom, the Athenians, the Greeks will envy you your good fortune.
Only you must have the memory and ardour for study, you must know
how to stand the tests, hold your own, go forward without feeling
fatigue, caring but little for food, abstaining from wine, gymnastic
exercises and other similar follies, in fact, you must believe as
every man of intellect should, that the greatest of all blessings is
to live and think more clearly than the vulgar herd, to shine in the
contests of words.
STREPSIADES
If it be a question of hardiness for labour, of spending whole
nights at work, of living sparingly, of fighting my stomach and only
eating chickpease, rest assured, I am as hard as an anvil.
SOCRATES
Henceforward, following our example, you will recognize no other
gods but Chaos, the Clouds and the Tongue, these three alone.
STREPSIADES
I would not speak to the others, even if I met them in the street;
not a single sacrifice, not a libation, not a grain of incense for
them!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Tell us boldly then what you want of us; you cannot fail to
succeed. If you honour and revere us and if you are resolved to become
a clever man.
STREPSIADES
Oh, sovereign goddesses, it is only a very small favour that I ask
of you; grant that I may outdistance all the Greeks by a hundred
stadia in the art of speaking.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
We grant you this, and henceforward no eloquence shall more
often succeed with the people than your own.
STREPSIADES
May the gods shield me from possessing great eloquence! That's not
what I want. I want to be able to turn bad law-suits to my own
advantage and to slip through the fingers of my creditors.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
It shall be as you wish, for your ambitions are modest. Commit
yourself fearlessly to our ministers, the sophists.
STREPSIADES
This I will do, for I trust in you. Moreover there is no drawing
back, what with these cursed horses and this marriage, which has eaten
up my vitals. (More and more volubly from here to THE END of speeck)
So let them do with me as they will; I yield my body to them. Come
blows, come hunger, thirst, heat or cold, little matters it to me;
they may flay me, if I only escape my debts, if only I win the
reputation of being a bold rascal, a fine speaker, impudent,
shameless, a braggart, and adept at stringing lies, an old stager at
quibbles, a complete table of laws, a thorough rattle, a fox to slip
through any hole; supple as a leathern strap, slippery as an eel, an
artful fellow, a blusterer, a villain; a knave with a hundred faces,
cunning, intolerable, a gluttonous dog. With such epithets do I seek
to be greeted; on these terms they can treat me as they choose, and,
if they wish, by Demeter! they can turn me into sausages and serve
me up to the philosophers.
CHORUS (singing)
Here have we a bold and well-disposed pupil indeed. When we have
taught you, your glory among the mortals will reach even to the skies.
STREPSIADES (singing)
Wherein will that profit me?

 

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